Today I celebrate my birthday, and while some of my peers dread their next birthday, I’m thankful and grateful. Over the past year, I have been able to continue to grow as an advocate for quality education and as an entrepreneur. La Comadre has expanded so much since my last birthday. Our network now has a cohort of La Comadre Fellows who are writing across the state. They are elevating their voices for quality education; our platform has helped them know that they are not alone. We have sponsored school board candidate meetups and helped organize education townhalls. I have even been busy moderating education related events and speaking on panels with national organizations including National Council of La Raza, now called UnidosUS, the National Charter Schools Association, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).
My work continues, and I want to continue to be a force for positive change in my community. In March of this year, I was blown away to be honored by the Women’s Club of Huntington Park as the ‘Woman of the Year’ at a luncheon for International Women’s Day. The organization chose to honor me for my work in education. Its ironic that they would celebrate me for helping to bring high quality education and helping to bring charter schools into the community when the local and corrupt city council put a moratorium on charter schools in effect denying children access to school options. It affirmed for me that we must continue to fight for school excellence no matter who is in power. Community leaders, members and parents honored me for my work which means that they see the value in school choice- regardless if the city council members don’t.
Our children only get one chance, and I vow to fight for them so that their lives aren’t limited by the politics of corruption but instead limitless because of a high quality education.
Huntington Park will always hold a special place for me; it is home. I grew up there and it is where I learned how to be an advocate. I am who I am because of Huntington Park. I honor my incredible teachers such as Ric Loya who taught me to be political and Manuel Rangell who at 10 years old expanded my view of the world, taught me to write and explained that if I could write, I could go to college. It also made me who I am because of the over-crowded schools that we were forced to go to, the cops who racially profiled us, the conditions that created 1992 LA Rebellion. Our high school principal Mr. Garcia told us at our 9th grade orientation that half of us wouldn’t survive, that students who were next to us would be dropping out. He set the bar low when we were starting high school, and I’m still angered by his statement and still motivated by it.
So when the Women’s Club of Huntington Park, an affiliate of the International Women’s Clubs Association, contacted me to notify me that I was being honored I was overwhelmed with gratitude and reminded that my behind the scenes work has not gone unnoticed. I was the Chief Strategist for Dr. Ref Rodriguez’s historic race to unseat the LAUSD incumbent two years ago. Today, he is the LAUSD School Board President. I agreed to lead his campaign which was a huge sacrifice because I knew that he would work hard for the Southeast Cities which I love so much. Like me, he is a product of working class and immigrant parents who sacrificed everything to make sure that their children had an education and were able to fulfill the American Dream.
At the event where I was honored, I had the opportunity to help provide scholarships for young women who are high school seniors heading to college. I want to build upon this and continue to support young people who come from circumstances similar to what I grew up in. We gave scholarships to 16 deserving young women ranging from $100 to $1000 each. Next year, I want to significantly increase that so we are investing in working class young women. Money does keep our community from accessing college. I’ll never forget the young woman who cried and expressed just how much the $100 scholarship meant to her and her single mother. It reminded me just how much $100 was for my family when I was her age. It is exactly why I vowed to continue to raise money and awareness about education for our community.
These young ladies reminded me of my friends and I at their age. We dreamt of going to college, had few role models, and our families didn’t have the resources to send us to go to college.
Education is the pathway out of poverty. And anyone who is educated and not thinking about educating the next generation of working class young people… NEEDS TO BE DOING SOMETHING. Join us. Let’s not sit by the sidelines while our community’s children are drowning.
I’m writing this message to put out my intention to the universe. In this next year of my life, my goal is to continue to advocate for and promote students who were like me. I am going to build on the foundation that I currently have and do as much as I can to bring more resources and quality education and school choices to communities like the one that nurtured me.
Alma V. Marquez
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