Reconstructing Institutions: Examine, Understand and Challenge Institutional Structures while Creating a Movement

Long before I knew about reconstructing institutions, I spent forty-four years working in one.  As a school district employee assigned to the administrative offices, I went about the daily routine,  meeting deadlines, seeking problem-solving techniques and contributing to a smooth function of the district.  Often times in the privacy of my mind I would question departmental procedures and sought my own solutions as to avoid being met with skepticism or end up blacklisted.

Shortly after I retired I began drafting a to-do-list.  As the list grew, the prioritizing began.   A few urgent matters surfaced:

  1. Identifying qualified candidates to run for school board
  2. Addressing the weak parent education and training program
  3.  Improving the failing academics to at least grade level.

First things first.  Success for every student begins with a strong and well-informed board of trustees.

And so began the mobilizing and empowering of the South Whittier community.  Armed with a long list of contacts acquired over the years, and made up of co-workers, local organizations’ colleagues, elected officials, family and friends, I phoned at least five contacts daily for a few months.   Numerous texts and emails were sent out until the perfect candidate was found.  Unfortunately, we had no campaign funds.  However, what we lacked in funds was more than restored by faith, purpose and passion.  After a handful of allies were enlisted, we ran a grassroots campaign.  Our hard work and determination paid off.  We were able to unseat an incumbent of twenty years and replaced her with an experienced educator that brought along  a great wealth of knowledge and many positive changes to the school district.

One of my goals had been to bring educational awareness to the community at large by any means necessary.  Contrary to popular belief, research has shown us that Latinos, including the  recent immigrants, value education and dream of a better future for their children.  In the words of legendary activist and scholar Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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Graciela de la Torre-Ferrada

Graciela de la Torre-Ferrada

Graciela Ferrada was born in Jalisco, Mexico. In 1964, she and her family migrated to California. She worked for the local school district 40 years, where she saw first-hand the lack of adequate education for Latino children and their parents.

As a lifelong community organizer and activist, Graciela Ferrada has been involved in local political campaigns, fundraising, getting the vote out, parent advocacy, and spearheading organizations that provide civic and social justice awareness. She is committed to narrowing the educational gap that has perpetually afflicted the working-class Latino communities as well as promoting social justice.

Her hobbies include, reading, league soccer, dancing, foreign movies. She currently resides in East Whittier, with husband and two adult children, Sebastian and Yasmin.

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