By Brenda Citlalicue
As a parent aware of and working towards an educational system that is equitable and relevant for our youth, choosing a program for your child is no easy task. We were lucky enough to have a great preschool experience with a model of education that fits our family values. We are grounded in what we want for our children; a love for learning, a love for self, and a love for mother earth. Once my daughter turned 4 the task of looking for a program that would best fit for Kinder and beyond began. As I began to speak on my experience I learned that many parents share some of these similar anxiety filled thoughts. The arduous work began to research and be well informed of the comings and goings of potential schools, districts or charter networks.
As first-generation college graduates, my partner and I know that there are cracks in the system, fault-lines that swallowed many of us whole in our educational journey. We definitely don’t want that for our children and have made thoughtful choices in our lifestyles to ensure they don’t repeat. My life’s work has been dedicated to ensuring that those circumstances change for all children. I can’t say that I have found THE answer or the perfect fit, but what I can attest to, as a parent and a community member, is the power in building community and sharing our voice.
In seeking a program for my daughter I had certain ideas in mind. I wanted her to feel a part of a community she can stand tall with an uplift when needed. I also had my own stigma with traditional schools so charter was a viable option. There are no charters in my district and after doing some research the only one that truly demonstrated our core values, is 14 Los Angeles traffic-filled miles away. That option was quickly taken off the table because that commute was not something we were ready to take part in. So we decided to give traditional school setting a try. Allowing the idea of building a community to light our path in this very important search.
Being that my daughter is coming from a dual immersion preschool we had the option to continue that in our home district. Although the dual immersion was appealing, something lacked. A mixture of the curriculum we saw on the walls, the staff that I observed and the depth of parent awareness of the “why” for their school mission turned me off. Another option was this romanticized idea of her attending my elementary school. We still reside in my hometown we want to stay rooted, so her attending my elementary school was an option. My alma mater has changed drastically (demographics, teachers, etc.) and I didn’t feel a connection there anymore. What did I expect, we are talking about more than 30 years later! A third option would be the neighborhood school that is approximately 800 feet from my house. As with all the other schools, I scheduled a visit, I interviewed parents and spoke to the students that walked by my house too and from school. I wanted to see what made them happy, what concerns they had and how they were addressed. Their voice was key and so was the school’s position in the community.
The deciding factor was when I met the principal. Turns out that we attended the same high school and graduated the same year. We share a mentor and have a couple of mutual friends. I saw a familiar face that had experienced the same educational program that I did and came back to make a difference, make it better! The tour was pleasant; the teachers were warm, the staff looked happy and parents were involved beyond the crosswalk and classroom beautification. That’s important as a parent, a working parent at that. I walked away feeling like my child would be taken care of while I am a 60-minute drive away for work. I also walked away knowing that I could hold someone accountable when challenges may arise. Those are key pieces to building community and strengthening our voices.
As a parent in this educational climate the “what ifs” and “what could be” will riddle our mind and heart endlessly. The key is that we have to hold a space for those thoughts and feelings to be addressed. I hope I have found that place. Not just for the growth of our daughter but for the development of my community as well. My children will play and share moments with this village and this village will play a hand in their growth and development. Our voice is an integral part of the school community that we will engage with in the coming years.