Rocketship Fuerza Teaches Students That They Are Never Too Young To Advocate for Their Community

On September 19, 2018, my daughter’s school, Rocketship Fuerza, had its first public hearing regarding its renewal for the school’s authorization, so that it can remain open another five years. Hundreds of Fuerza families attended the hearing in support of our school! It was great to see so many families at the Santa Clara County Office of Education board meeting. Our principal, Juan Mateos, shared part of his story and made many of us cry with his touching story. He remembers his experience at Stanford where he looked around and didn’t see anyone who looked like him and wants to make sure our youth attends college. Our youth of color have the potential to attend college, and I feel so thankful that we have school leaders who believe in our students and who strive to do their best to unleash the potential of every student.

That evening of September 19, 2018, I was extremely proud and emotional that my youngest daughter, Gianna (Gigi), spoke in front of the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) school board to advocate for her community. I learned to advocate for our community in 2014, when we struggled to get Rocketship Fuerza approved, as an adult, yet, my youngest daughter at the age of nine has learned the importance of advocating for her community.

Gigi shared briefly about why she wants her school to receive approval to remain open another five years. She shared how Rocketship Fuerza not only helps her grow her brain, but also helps her grow as a person. Rocketship Fuerza teaches core values: persistence, empathy, responsibility, respect, and ganas. These values are similar to what we teach at home, which helps Gigi to grow into a well-rounded individual in our society. Gigi has also learned more about her cultura at Rocketship Fuerza and has developed a love for folklorico.

Gigi loves that her principal gives the students opportunities to do fun projects, such as learn about history through people who have made a difference in our nation, like Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez. They also had a project to choose one of the core values and make a poster of how they have demonstrated the core value at school, at home, and in the community. Gigi’s poster was one of the posters chosen for the student to present during launch. Launch is how Rocketship Fuerza begins their day, with cheer and dance, like a rally every morning! When it was Gigi’s turn to present her core value poster at launch, she was nervous, and she cried in front of everyone. But the next day, she told her principal that she was ready and she stood in front of the entire school again, and presented her poster. Gigi was happy because nobody made fun of her for crying in front of everyone. Fuerza teaches students to be empathic of one another. In kindergarten, Gigi had a classmate with special needs, the class learned to be empathic of the classmate, to learn when he needed space and how to communicate with him, Gigi was very caring of her friend and learned to help him and continues to help him now in third grade.

At Rocketship Fuerza, students collect socks for the homeless during the winter and we have helped to pass out the socks to the homeless, demonstrating their core value of empathy in our community. Rocketship Fuerza has taught both parents and students the importance of being involved in our community. We have worked with our Vice Mayor, Magdalena Carrasco, to hold neighborhood clean ups in our community and volunteer at community events. Gigi and I have attended community meetings with our Vice Mayor so that we can be informed of resources and updates within our community. Fuerza truly instills the value of being responsible in our community.

Rocketship Fuerza has helped Gigi overcome her fears and motivates her to have ganas to talk in front of people. I knew Gigi would receive a high quality education at Rocketship Fuerza, but I didn’t realize that I would also develop my voice to be a leader in my community. Gigi has been part of my journey, attending parent leader meetings and trainings since I began advocating for her school. Thanks to the leadership skills her school teaches and seeing me speak in public, it has helped Gigi overcome her fears and start learning to speak in public. She has more confidence than I ever had at her age. This is why it is so important for us parents to be examples to our children, to get involved in our children’s education and show them that we must learn to use our voice and overcome our fears. It takes a village to raise a child, and I am glad that we chose a school where parents and students can develop leadership skills and learn to be involved in our communities to make a positive change. I encourage parents to get involved and be an example to your children. If we work together, we can make a positive change in our communities.

The vote for the renewal of Rocketship Fuerza will be on October 24, 2018, and I hope that politics doesn’t get in the way of a great school that is not only providing high quality education, but also provides the tools for parents and students to learn to transform our communities!

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Lety Gomez

Lety Gomez

Lety Gómez was born and raised in East San Jose. She is married with three children. She is proud to be the first in her family to attend college and receive a bachelor’s degree. 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 equity in education has allowed her to be a voice for other parents in her community who seek high quality education options. In 2014, she chaired the first parent-led Mayoral candidates forum in San Jose, where she realized the power parents have to create change in their communities. She wants to share her story with other parents in an effort 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. In 2020 Lety moved to Texas, where she continues to advocate for equity in public education and school choice across our country.

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