My Children: Why I Care About Education

I was recently asked what motivates me to care so much about education. My children were my first motivation to care about education. I knew I didn’t want to send them to the same kind of schools I attended growing up. I wanted them to have a better experience. With my two oldest children, the only school option we had was determined by our zip code, so we moved to an area with a better district. I thought moving would ensure they had a better experience in school than I did, but unfortunately that was not the case. 

So when our youngest daughter was going to start school in 2014, we moved back to San Jose. I worked with parents from East San Jose to bring a new school option to our community. By volunteering as a Parent Leader, I learned more about the education system, the politics involved, and those who hold power and make decisions for our families and community. I learned about the achievement gap, the school to prison pipeline and the system that has failed brown and black students for generations. My organizer at the time tapped into my anger I’d buried deep inside. I started reflecting about my educational experience and realized that the system had failed not only me and my two oldest children, but also, many more low income students of color and students with learning disabilities. This has been happening for generations, and is sadly still happening today!

Parents in my community wanted change, and that meant a better school option that would benefit all students in our community. Thus, we were excited to bring Rocketship Fuerza to East San Jose. The charter petition was denied by our local school district, not based on the law, but based on politics in education. We didn’t give up and appealed to the county office of education. We continued to meet with board members, and shared our stories so they could understand the need in our community. The hard work paid off — we received unanimous approval of our charter public school, Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep. Six years later, Rocketship Fuerza received the 2020 California Distinguished School Award. Schools selected for this award demonstrated significant gains in narrowing the achievement gap. 

This process helped me to realize the power that parents have to create change. We didn’t settle. Instead of sending our children to the same failing schools in our community, we fought and worked hard to bring a new school option to East San Jose that would provide the high quality education that all students deserve. Our organizer gave us the tools to organize our community and bring change. Parents have a voice; I didn’t realize it until I learned community organizing tools and the importance of sharing my story with others. 

This is no longer about making sure only my family has access to high quality education, but for all students, especially students in low income communities who are underserved and whose voices often go unheard. The anger of the inequities in the education system fuel me to keep fighting and working towards ending the systemic racism that our country was founded upon. Every student deserves access to a high quality education, regardless of their zip code.  

I now live in Texas, and see the inequities in education, especially in low income communities and communities of color. It feels very similar to what I experienced growing up; this is happening everywhere. I am now an education organizer working with parents to give them tools for community organizing. They are realizing the importance of sharing their stories and have led many meetings with elected officials. These parents have been fighting over the past year to bring a high quality school option to their community; they are realizing the power they have when they organize and they are not giving up. 

I continue to advocate in Texas and across our country for equity in education. I will not sit and allow the education system to fail my youngest daughter, my grandson, and communities of color. I am tired of waiting for the education system to improve, we have the power to bring change now!

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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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