Interview with My Mom: A Teen Parent who Made Sure Her Children Got the Best Public School Education

For Mother’s Day, I interviewed my beautiful mama about what it was like for her to advocate for my educational needs as a teen parent. 

At 23, she made a pivotal decision that changed the trajectory of my life – she advocated to send me to an elementary school outside of my neighborhood school. I didn’t realize how impactful my mother’s decision was until after I graduated from Yale University. 

Parent advocates, like my mom, are the missing voice in our public education system. I was so excited to chat with my mom, Michele Guillen, over cafecito about her journey from teen parent to parent advocate:

Danielle: Mom, thanks for taking the time to share your story with me and the La Comadre community! I wanted to start actually with something that you have just started doing – writing letters and submitting public comments to our local school board. Can you tell me how and why you started using your voice to influence school board decisions?

Michele: I always thought the saying, “there is power in numbers” was a cliché, until the pandemic hit. As a mother, my children have always been my #1 priority, and while still raising a minor in 2021, I knew my voice to affect what happens in the classroom had to be heard.

Danielle: I have witnessed how much your confidence has grown since I was younger. What was it like for you to send me to elementary school in the same district you went to?

Michele: Danielle’s father and I did things at a very young age including buying our first home, so what we could financially afford played a big impact on where my kids entered elementary school. I knew I couldn’t repeat the process I went through as a child, so I sought out the best educational environment when my girls entered Kindergarten. 

Danielle: I remember how hard you worked to get me to my elementary school. There were days when you would take us to school around 6:30 am so that you could also get to work on time. Sometimes I feel like schools are not designed around the needs of working parents. For you, what was the most challenging part of making sure I accessed a better education?

Michele: Traveling sometimes three times a day over 5 miles to pick up 2 different kids during my lunch was definitely challenging, but in the end all worth it!

Danielle: Even though I like to pretend that I am your only child, you have two other children whom you have sent to public schools. How did successfully advocating to send me to a better elementary school impact your decisions when my two youngest sisters started school?

Michele: As a parent, you equally want the best for ALL of your children, even as I became financially stable by the time I had my 3rd daughter in 2007, I switched her middle school            (through an Intra-district transfer)  for better opportunities that were more conducive to her learning atmosphere. 

Danielle: When I taught, I always appreciated forming relationships with my parents. I also realized that navigating our school systems can be overwhelming for parents as well. What advice do you have for other parents as they advocate for their children in our public school systems?

Michele: Never give up! Be relentless with your voice, no one advocates more intensely for your child than you!

Danielle: Your journey from teen parent to parent advocate always amazes me. Thank you so much for being my mom, for always advocating for me, and for sharing your story with others. Happy Mother’s Day, Chiquita! I love you! ❤️ 

Michelle: In the end, this is what it is all about. I love you, Nala!

What do you think?
The following two tabs change content below.
Danielle Guillen

Danielle Guillen

Danielle learned the power of community and education growing up in the Inland Empire. Her parents worked tremendously hard to transfer her to an elementary school outside of her neighborhood school. It was this small act of attending a better elementary school that affected the entire trajectory of Danielle’s life. She would not realize how impactful her parents' decision was until she was accepted into Yale University. As a first generation college student at Yale University, Danielle realized her family was not alone in their struggle to access equitable educational opportunities. Her desire to extend equitable education opportunities to families, like her own, led her to become a secondary teacher on the Navajo Nation where she experienced first hand the barriers low income rural families face to accessing high quality education. In her role as the Director of Organizing and Policy for Los Angeles Unified Board District 5, Danielle intimately understood the state of education in the second largest school system in the United States and the urgency to make sure that half a million children have access to equitable education In her current role as Director at a national nonprofit, she works with elected leaders, executive directors, and community organizers across the nation to ensure that students have access to an equitable education. She enjoys hikes, yoga, and essential oils.

More Comments