From a young age, I was taught the value of community and the fact that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. It was my upbringing centered around civic engagement and community involvement that motivated me to go to college with the mere goal and purpose of coming back to Lynwood, my hometown, and serving my community as an educator.
In my first year as a teacher, I saw the inequities in our education system that I found myself realizing how many opportunities I had missed during my own schooling because I did not have access or knowledge of appropriate resources and tailored guidance. In coming to a realization of self, my life came full circle. I decided to run for a seat on the Lynwood School Board at the age of 23, and I fearlessly challenged the opposition that saw me as too young and too inexperienced to bring about change. I still remember running an entire campaign around one of my favorite Cesar Chavez quotes: “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” That quote was a reminder that our community would only experience progress if we all worked together to help one another. To date, that is still the quote I channel through my own leadership.
The year of my election, I became the one of the youngest elected board members in the state, but the truth is I did not just win the election. I was able to open a door to earn my community’s trust and instill a sense of hope that we could do better, while also earning the honor of serving my constituents. In addition to that, I also won the responsibility of doing whatever I could to provide Lynwood students the opportunities for them to pursue their own goals and their own happiness because “we cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community.”
Despite all our work, a few months ago, everything changed. After the presidential election, the climate changed drastically, causing students and families to feel more disempowered and hopeless than ever before. As a teacher, I witnessed students fear for their families’ future, and I heard parents discuss their own fears about separating from their loved ones.
Last Friday we honored Cesar Chavez’s legacy, it is important that we come together to stand against hateful borders because we know that “la unión hace la fuerza” and unity is the key to fighting injustice. As we continue our fight, I also ask you to remember that as fears of raids continue, and as more and more hate is displayed from those in positions of power, it will be important for us all, as educators, as caretakers, as student champions, as advocates, and as relentless fighters for justice to be even more intentional about providing our most vulnerable community, our children, the space to feel safe, the space to feel loved, the space to feel validated and the space to feel protected.
Things will only get better if we all unite against hateful borders and demonstrate the power of unity. WE MATTER!
Latest posts by Alma Renteria (see all)
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