"Orgullosa." Update from the Latino Summit

Christina Torres reports from the ground.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Christina Torres taught in the 2009 Los Angeles corps and works in Teach For America's Hawaii region. She is reporting from the ground in Houston at Teach For America’s Latino Summit.

I finished my last post with a Hawaiian word, kuleana. Now, though, orgullosa or “proud” is the first word on my mind.

 

A picture of an orange and red sign advertising the 2013 Latino Summit, with most of the content obscured by glare.

 

Over the past few days, I’ve had the opportunity to not only be pushed, but also re-inspired and re-grounded in why I do this work. We heard from a number of Teach For America Houston students, who shared that Teach For America corps members have gone “above and beyond,” and schools like YesPrep have become “their families” when they felt they had none. One student, Orlando, shared with his teacher after he left:

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I feel unstoppable.”

And he is. All our students are, it is up to us to remember that. There were multiple calls to action. Our Co-CEO, Elisa Villanueva-Beard, asked us “If not us, who? If not now, when?” Curtis Acosta, an amazing teacher and advocate, told us that we “cannot be lazy. We can’t afford it. We have to be role-models.”

It is easy, sometimes, to put our head down and get caught in the incessant fighting, the multiple (and often differing) perspectives, and the unfortunate amount of finger-pointing that we are currently seeing in education reform. Tough conversations are good. They are necessary to growth.

Still, staff member Seth Saavedra reminded us that we need to be “critically engaged, not cynical.” In being surrounded by a familia, by being reminded that Latino comes in your corazón, it was easy to see the reason I not only do this work but love this work. Latino communities hold the future of this nation, as we make up more and more of the population. It is unacceptable that 34% of Latino children grow up in poverty.

In being part of the community, it is my time to step up and ensure they are receiving the education they deserve. Not simply because it’s right, or because we’re are making amends for past injustices, or we want a seat at the proverbial table.

It is also out of a deep, passionate, soul-encompassing amor. El espíritu de mi comunidad está fluyendo en mi sangre, está en mi alma. I honor that spirit and the spirit of mis antepasados, my ancestors by working alongside those communities both to ensure their success and to empower it with a deep sense of pride for our cultura y nuestros raizes (our roots).

It is with that pride that our final keynote speakers, Sheriff Adrian Garcia and Mayor Julián Castro, acted as role models of Latino leadership in Texas. Mayor Castro reminded us that children have “purity. They all believe they are going to be doctors and lawyers.” Finally, he shared with us an important reminder that sits at the heart at the work we do in our classrooms and with our communities.

“We must turn their American dreams into American realities.”

Follow live tweets of this event @latinos4ed

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