Who am I?
I was born in Los Angeles, California, but mostly raised in the east side of Portland, Oregon. I grew up poor with three other siblings and a single mom. We were homeless at times, living with other people. We were a very mobile family, and in fact we moved so much to a point where I ended up going to seven different elementary schools and three different middle schools. I failed most of my classes until I got to high school and thanks to mentors and teachers I became a first generation college student. I went on to the University of Oregon (UO) and got my bachelor's degree Political Science and Ethnic Studies. While at the University of Oregon I served on the United States Student Association Board for three years and also served as a Program Finance Committee Senator at Associated Students of the University of Oregon for a year. While at UO I worked for the Multicultural Center, MEChA, the Office of Multicultural and Academic Success, GANAS middle school mentoring, and the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity. After I graduated the UO in 2010, I went on to Portland State University (PSU) for two years to get my masters in Social Work. While at PSU, I worked in the Multicultural Center and then became the coordinator of a new Latino Student Center. During my master’s program I co-authored Oregon’s first ever Racial Equity Report with Western States Center, which required me to engage in extensive research, collect data, actively search, follow and track bills that were related to education, health, immigrant, civil and economic equity. In addition, I interned with the Community Alliance of Tenants working on renter’s rights issues. In 2012 I graduated from Portland State University (PSU) earning a Master’s in Social Work where I concentrated on community-based practice. During my graduation, I was the commencement speaker and received the National Association of Social Workers Community Based Practice Award. Currently, I work for a non-profit called Elevate Oregon, where I mentor and teach High School students. On the side, I am the board chair of a non-profit called Momentum Alliance/Student Alliance Project and I also organize Latino Parents in the school district that I graduated from. For the most part, to summarize who I am, I am a Latino who has seen and experienced a lot of suffering and I want to change the future of our community from the bottom up.
Why am I running?
I grew up mostly in East Portland, where there are high rates of poverty. Because of the gentrification of Portland, most folks are moving east where rent is more affordable. What this has meant is that there have been huge demographic shifts in the school districts in the East side of our county, Reynolds School District Latino
enrollment has grown from 158 in 1990 to 1461 in 1999 to 4,243 in 2012. I know that my community is mostly poor and diverse and that our dropout rates are high, our graduation rates are horrible and if these statistics continue our community faces a cycle of poverty for decades to come. I don’t want that future for us. I want a thriving community and this is why I am running for School Board because I truly believe that with an equitable and accessible education we can fight poverty in our communities.
I graduated from Reynolds High School in 2005. Since then, I have seen our district face many challenges. In the past 3 years, I have been involved in trying to move the district forward. In 2010, I started my first year practicum through my master’s program with El Programa Hispano, where I did case managing in the Reynolds School District. I learned firsthand the many issues that the district faced. That year got involved in organizing Latino parents at Reynolds Middle School. My involvement with parents led me to get even more involved within the district. A year later, I applied and got appointed to the Reynolds Finance Committee. Through my involvement and knowing the reality of the disparities that exist within the district, I wanted to do something big about it. My vision was to create a Spanish parent group at every school that would meet monthly. The purpose of these groups would be for Latino Parents to identify issues that they face in their school and the district and for the groups to be able to advocate for themselves. After speaking with parents at a few schools I put my vision to work. I organized the first ever Spanish speaking parent night at an elementary school. From there I started working in collaboration with the school district to organize Spanish parent nights at each school in the district, which so far we have organized 7 elementary schools and one middle school. We have identified barriers, provided trainings/workshops in Spanish about the education system and have created a relationship with parents, principals and school district administrators. This is something that has never been done in the districts history. Now, 7 Elementary Schools in our district are having monthly Spanish Latino Parent nights. The district and I are organizing the middle schools next and then the high school. We have months of work ahead of us. It is because of these meetings and the issues identified that I want to run for school board and help move the district forward.
If elected, what are your top two goals for your first year in office?
My first goal would be to get the school board to talk about issues of race, poverty and disparities. I believe that the school board has been silent this past decade about issues of inequalities and institutional forms of racism. We have to start talking about what we need to change in order for us to have better educational outcomes and it begins with conversations that make people uncomfortable. One way that I would like to begin this discussion would be through the auditing of districts ELL funding. Our school district receives additional funding for every student that is in ELL, but there have been many concerns as to where this funding is going or has gone to. I want to see where the money is being used and if it is being efficiently and appropriately allocated to ELL students.
My second goal would be to begin moving forward plans on creating a bilingual education program that stems from kindergarten through middle school. The Reynolds School District does not have a bilingual education program and the community, including teachers, have been advocating for the district to implement it for years. A bilingual education program is critical for the future success of all students in the district making this one of my top priorities.
My DFA Values
My campaign values align with DFA values of community, security and liberty. The foundation of my campaign values is community. The reason why I am running is because I want my neighbors to have a better future and for their children to have a great education that leads them free from poverty. My campaign is about equality and liberty. I want to fight discrimination in our schools so that our students can graduate and become investors in our own communities. We spend all this money on defense and war to keep us safe, but our own communities locally are not safe and lack prosperity. We need to be investing more in public education systems so that we can break this cycle of poverty, incarceration and forced apathy. My campaign values are about creating opportunities empowerment, consciousness and progress. Where does anyone start to address issues of oil dependency, war, corporate greed, and targeted surveillance? I believe that place is our public schools and we must act now, to battle the push to privatize our education system.
My Campaign is People Powered!
My first example would be how instead of paying the 10 dollar fee to file with the elections office, I gathered 25 signatures from registered voters in the school district as a waiver of that fee. I consider myself a community organizer with grassroots principals and I wanted to start my campaign off by talking to people about why I should even be on the ballot. Right of the bat, I spoke to over 25 registered voters and received input on issues and how to continue my campaign. My second example of how my campaign is people powered is how my candidacy and my platform stem from my community organizing of parents within the school district. My foundation is grassroots, I consider myself a megaphone for those who have not had a voice in the decision making of our schools policies. I didn’t organize Latino parent groups with my own agenda; the parents created the agenda and decided what they wanted. It is the same with my campaign, its grassroots and people driven.