Punto Final: Latinas Can Build the World We Want to Leave Behind

By Amanda Fernandez CEO and Founder of Latinos for Education

As Latinas, we often navigate workplaces and industries where we are the only ones in the room who look like us and have a similar upbringing as ours. For me, that’s been the case multiple times in the education sector. Whether I was sitting on the board of a nonprofit organization or an education board, I am often the lone Latina that has to make sure the voice and needs of our Latino community are heard. That shouldn’t be the case, especially when it comes to who represents our community in our nation’s education system.

Latinos represent 1 in 4 of all students in our public schools, but only 9 percent of all teachers and 9 percent of all principals nationwide identify as Latinx. This is a sobering statistic that impacts education and career outcomes for Latinos. It’s also a statistic that we have the power to change and that’s why I launched Latinos for Education.

The proposition was simple: our education system will be stronger when Latino students, and their families, see adults in their schools that look like them; and when the voice of Latinos is shaping education policy.

In our work with Latino leaders through our fellowship programs, we hear echoes of the same story playing out from generation to generation. Most tell us that they were fortunate if they had one Latino teacher during their entire academic journey, many had none. This lack of representation creates an environment where Latino students feel invisible or like they’re a problem that needs fixing.

But the research tells us that academic performance and career aspirations improve when students have teachers of similar backgrounds who can serve as role models and affirm their abilities. The validation students receive by Latino educators builds self-confidence among students who may doubt their academic potential. Our fellows often tell us how it was the one Latinx educator in their lives who helped them see college as a possibility, and helped them make it a reality.

However, being the only voice can be taxing. 43% of Latino educators end up leaving the profession within their first five years because they don’t feel supported enough and many don’t see opportunities for advancement within their school districts. This is especially true for Latina educators, and the COVID-19 pandemic has added extra pressure to those they were already juggling. Latinas in our programs tell us about how they often have to serve as their school’s parent engagement coordinator, chief diversity officer, translator, on top of being an educator; and never get compensated for doing that extra work or get overlooked for promotions.

Through Latinos for Education we are working to transform the education system so it not only welcomes more Latino educators, but it supports them in their careers to go on to be principals, superintendents, and school board members. The pandemic has made it clear that we need educators and education leaders that understand the Latino community, and now we are working to pass laws and change practices that give Latinos a seat at the table. The next generation of Latino students and educators are relying on us to make it happen and con ganas, we can.

Amanda Fernandez is the CEO and Founder of Latinos for Education, the first Latino-founded and led national organization dedicated to creating leadership pathways for emerging Latino education leaders and diversifying education nonprofit boards. She is a Trustee of the Board with the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Roxbury Community College. El Planeta has twice named her one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in Massachusetts and she is a Senior Fellow at FutureEd. Amanda has over 25 years of experience in the areas of recruiting, diversity, organization development, change management, strategic planning, and Latino community relations.
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