Luchadora Profile: Lorena Chavez, Candidate for East Side Union High School District in San Jose

Lorena Chavez is a San Jose native. She is a proud graduate of Yerba Buena High School, a school in East Side Union High School District. Lorena is one of six children born to Mexican immigrant parents. Lorena is an educator and was a teacher and principal in East San Jose Schools.

I support Lorena Chavez because we need school board members who will meet with us parents and show compassion for our families, who believe that all students can succeed, who will be a CHAMPION for ALL students, and who will ensure that our student needs are at the table when board members are making decisions. Lorena is the right candidate for East Side Union High School District because she is willing to bring everyone to the table, to collaborate, to ensure that all schools are providing high quality education to every student and that each student is being supported so they can achieve their full potential.

We need change now, our schools have been failing our youth of color since I was in school, and one board member has been on the school board since I was in high school. We cannot continue to wait for our schools to slowly improve, we need board members who are willing to be leaders at the table and challenge the status quo, to hold everyone accountable to ensure that our schools are succeeding.

I would like to share a little bit about Lorena’s experience in school and the reason she is running for school board.

“My self esteem was low when I was in school, I wanted to succeed for my dad because I wanted him to be proud of me. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I started to believe in myself and that I started doing things for myself,” Lorena said.

When Lorena was a freshman at Yerba Buena High School, she sat in the back of class and fell asleep. Her teacher, Mr. Amezquita, sprayed her in the face with a overhead water bottle and said to her that no one falls asleep in his class. Lorena woke up and was very upset that her teacher sprayed water on her! He asked her to stay after class that day and told her that she needed to get her act together, he told her that she had the ability to do something in life, and he asked her if she wanted to do something to better herself. Her response was yes.

Mr. Amezquita told Lorena that he was starting the AVID program, the program was for sophomores, but he said it was ok, they would figure it out for Lorena to be part of the program. He then sent her to his wife, who was a counselor at the school. When Lorena went to speak to Mrs. Amezquita, she actually suggested to Lorena that she should sign up for AP courses. Lorena was surprised because she didn’t feel capable of succeeding in AP courses, but Mrs. Amezquita told her that she was capable and that she already had better writing skills than many who were already in those courses. But in order for Lorena to be enrolled in AP courses, she had to sign a contract, her teachers and counselor had to vouch for her and sign a contract along with her. Thanks to her teacher who woke her up in class, Lorena found the attention and the support she needed in school to succeed. “Living this experience instilled in me the conviction that our students’ education should not be left to luck,” Lorena explained.

Getting into college her senior year of high school gave her a boost. Lorena was excited to be accepted into college.

“But when I started UC Davis, I was very paranoid, I kept going to see my counselor my freshman year of college to make sure that I was on track because I wanted to make sure that I succeeded in college. I kept looking for resources and attended summer school every year to make sure that I graduated college in four years. I remember looking around in my classes and didn’t see others who looked like me in class, that motivated me to succeed in college and graduate on time. The AVID program taught me how to take notes, how to ask questions, how to study, and those skills also helped me to succeed in college,” Lorena said.

Lorena knows that not all of her peers were lucky like her and that not all students receive the support they need to succeed in school. She is the only one out of her five siblings who graduated from college.

“My twin was sent to continuation school half way through our freshman year of high school, and he was smart! He wasn’t one of the lucky ones,” Lorena explained.

This is why Lorena is running for school board at East Side Union High School District. Lorena knows the needs of our students, she knows the needs of us parents, she is an educator and has the unique perspective and understanding of how a classroom should work and what resources teachers need to make all students successful. Lorena is also a mother of two children who she is raising in the district. Lorena wants to ensure that our schools in East Side Union High School District are preparing EVERY child for college, careers, and beyond.

“I am running for all schools and all students. I am going to hold every one of our schools accountable. I want to be a partner with each school, I am an educator, I will fight for all teachers in every school to have what they need. I’m running to raise expectations, tear down walls, and open a new world of opportunity for students in East Side Union. If we do this, each one of our kids will be able to pursue their dreams, have pride in where they come from, and blaze new trails of  innovation across the 21st century,” Lorena said. “It’s important to rethink our education system. We need to ensure that all students are learning, that students are comfortable in school.”

The school to prison pipeline exists. There are situations where students do not feel safe in the classroom, the teacher doesn’t have a relationship with students, students do something sassy and teacher kicks them out, they are sent to principal office, they are then suspended and sometimes expelled, because the system wasn’t set up for them. Then these youth turn to the streets, setting them up to end up in jail/prison. This cycle needs to end. That is why one of the issues Lorena would like to tackle is to prioritize school safety and discipline reform, examining our disciplinary actions and finding alternatives to suspension and expulsion.

Lorena told La Comadre, “We need to challenge ourselves in the way that we view education, the way we work, our sense of urgency, accountability, so we can do better. We need to rethink our schools and our system, especially for our students and our community, how are we teaching our students, how do set them up for success, how do we assess them?”

When elected, Lorena will work on advocating, supporting and retaining great teachers and staff in our schools. She plans to have mandatory professional development for all teachers, wants to ensure that salaries and benefits are competitive, and work to offer the resources our teachers need in their classrooms.

When elected, Lorena will amplify the voices of East Side parents, students, and community members  by ensuring that ESUHSD Board and district decision makers are open and easily accessible to the community they serve. Collaboration is needed, but we must lay down the groundwork first; the way we approach things, the way we communicate will help us to collaborate. She will offer opportunities for parents, students and teachers to offer feedback as the Board is making key considerations.

When elected, Lorena will leverage tech and innovation to bring our classrooms into the 21st century and beyond. She will continue to improve and increase the internet connectivity and access to technology resources during and after school. She will work to expand curriculum offerings for computer science, engineering and technology, and digital media that prepare students for competitive, high-paying jobs in the tech industry. She will work on building bridges between the community and stakeholders in the tech space to give exposure to the many different career pathways.

Unlike Lorena, I was not one of the lucky ones who had a supportive teacher my freshman year in the East Side Union High School District, but we need to change that. We can’t leave our children’s education to luck, we must work to ensure that every student in East Side Union High School District is successful in school and Lorena understands that. Lorena is a luchadora, she will work hard and continue to advocate for every student in every school. That is why I support Lorena Chavez for East Side Union High School District and hope that you will support her to represent us on the school board.

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Lety Gomez

Lety Gomez

Lety Gomez was born and raised in East San Jose. She is married with three children. She graduated from University of Phoenix with a bachelor’s degree in Business/Accounting. When she was a teenager, Fr. Mateo Sheedy was the pastor of her parish, Sacred Heart of Jesus. She fondly remembers his passion for social justice, especially justice for the immigrant community in San Jose and ensuring that the parish youth had access to high quality education. Fr. Mateo instilled in her his passion for social justice, but for many years it was kept unlit, deep inside of her. It wasn’t until her youngest daughter was enrolled at Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep in 2014 that her passion for social justice lit up. Thanks to the Rocketship parent organizer at that time, Lety received training and the tools to use her voice for social justice and learned about community organizing. She is proud to be one of the many parents who worked hard to open their school, knowing that the kids needed and deserved a better public school. That struggle is why they named their school Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep. “Fuerza” is the Spanish word for force, strength, or power. Her passion for advocating for education has allowed her to be a voice for other parents in her community who seek high quality education options. She wants to share her story with other parents in efforts to motivate them to get involved so they can advocate together, because united they can make a change in the educational system and in their communities. Lety is currently a community leader in East San Jose, where she advocates for equity in public education and parent choice.

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