The National Parents Union is helping parents drive change in education. Parents across the United States can join for free to participate in events, get training, and enjoy fellowship fellowship with activists who are on the same journey. To get the scoop on National Parents Union, asked Keri Rodrigues, Founding President of National Parents Union, and Wendy Gonzales-Neal and Shea Mackin, who are both Texas delegates. Keep reading to learn more about how the National Parents Union got started and why you should get involved now.
Journey to Becoming a Parent Advocate
SACM: How did you become a parent advocate?
Keri: “The most important role in my life is being Matthew, Miles, and David’s mom, and Max and Dylan’s bonus mom. The moment I saw that my oldest son, who happens to have autism and ADHD was being treated unfairly and was surrounded by educators who had already given up on him even though he was only in kindergarten, a parent advocate was born. I had to learn a new language and fight against powerful people, but I was willing to do it because my children mean more to me than anything. I refused to let the same system that failed me as a child fail them as well.”
SACM: Why and how was the National Parents Union created?
Keri: “The deep pain and loneliness I felt at the end of my son’s IEP table, the fear, the doubt, the insecurity around whether or not I would be able to get my son what he deserved has never left me—and led me to connect with other mothers in our community who were also fighting for their children—without some of the advantages I had as an organizer and being fluent in English. First I connected with parents to create Massachusetts Parents United and built the largest parent advocacy organization in the state. From there we connected with pockets of parent power across the nation—authentic groups created by parents, not manufactured by folks using us as props for their own agenda. And together we developed and created the National Parents Union—created for parents, by parents, run entirely by parents.”
SACM: Why should parents join the National Parents Union?
Keri: Parents should join the National Parents Union because now more than ever, parents and families need to be at the table where decisions are being made around how we recover from one of the most unique challenges ever facing our country. This is a moment to innovate and recreate an education system that actually works better for our children and our families—instead of shoving them back into a status quo that has failed them for far too long. But we can’t do it without parents across this country coming together and speaking truth to power. Change is possible, but only if we work for it.”
The Convening: How the National Parents Union Was Born
SACM: Why did you become a member of the National Parents Union?
Wendy: “I believe God puts people in our path for a reason. I met our Mom-in-Chief Keri Rodrigues here in my hometown of Houston. We were celebrating a Save Our Charter School Rally back in September of 2019. This is where I met this short, sassy, fired up momma at the rally. To be honest, I had never met or knew anything about Keri, until she spoke at our rally and I listened to how she fired up all the parents and students. But what got my attention from this sassy mom was that her story sounded like my story. But there was something about her that I loved, she is LOUD, she speaks the real truth, she spoke from the heart, and got our Houston families fired up. She spoke with me after the rally and said she heard about the work I’m doing. I told her that her story is very similar to my story. She said, ‘Mammas like me and you have stories to tell, it’s time we band together to make our voices louder to make sure we are heard!’
“Fast forward—I get an email from Keri about the National Parents Union convening back in January of 2020. I met so many parents and education activists doing the same work that I’m doing. When we all met at the convening we came together as strangers. By the end of the convening strangers became friends. I realized the work I’m doing here in Houston is not different from the work at National Parents Union. My education journey brought me to become one of the Texas Delegates with the National Parents Union, where I take my experience on a national level that is fighting for all kids.”
SACM: Who are the people who make up the National Parents Union?
Wendy: “When COVID-19 hit our nation, the NPU team became my familia during this pandemic. We supported each other personally and professionally. I asked myself, what organization does that? They provided me with regional and national resources that supported my work in Houston. These resources include training in multiple areas of advocacy, materials for distribution, direct access to a strong network of seasoned advocates. They offered an avenue to my work to be shared and my perspective highlighted by multiple media platforms. They offered me training and support to host my organization’s Facebook Live shows called My Child My Voice Kid Konnection and Parent Connection. The National Parents Union gave me the opportunity to partner with an amazing network of organizations and members who share values and are driven by our core beliefs. Another thing it’s FREE to join and simple to become a member.”
SACM: Why should parents join the National Parents Union?
Wendy: “Our work is about putting our kids first. Motivating parents to take a stand for our kids education and say enough is enough. Our voices—parents’ voices—matter because we are the experts of our babies.
“The National Parents Union is listening to parents, because we are parent voices from Texas, to Philly, to New Jersey, to Oklahoma, to Arizona, to California, to Boston—we are everywhere. You call us, and we answer: ‘WeGotchu!’ I am honored to be part of this POWERFUL family because this family inspires me and others to FIGHT to effect change and to make sure PARENTS are sitting at the table when it comes to OUR kid’s education. If you are a parent, guardian, teacher, an advocate, or an organization or a person wanting to make change in our education system, then we have a place for you here at the National Parents Union.”
Get Involved in Texas
For more information on what the National Parents Union is doing in Texas, or to ask questions about becoming a member of the National Parents Union, please reach out to Texas delegate Shea Mackin at email@example.com. Get involved with the National Parents Union so you can join fellow parents in driving change in education!
Charter Moms Chats
Watch Keri Rodrigues, Founding President of National Parents Union, Wendy Gonzales-Neal, a Texas Delegate with National Parents Union and Founder and Executive Director of My Child My Voice, and Shea Mackin, a Texas Delegate with National Parents Union and a leader in the Texas Chapter of the National Coalition for Public School Options, speak with Inga Cotton on Charter Moms Chats on February 1, 2021 at 4 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube.
Keri Rodrigues is Matthew, Miles, and David’s mom and the Founding President of the National Parents Union. Called “arguably the most successful parent organizer in education advocacy today,” her outstanding commitment to social, economic and educational equity for children and families spans decades. Following her own difficult experience surviving the Massachusetts public school system and receiving her GED from Boston Public Schools, Rodrigues was not surprised when she struggled navigating the education system with her own children. Knowing that schools were not adequately meeting the needs of students and parents, she turned her focus to education activism, eventually helping other families across the Commonwealth identify and use their voice and place kids at the center of the education discussion. Rodrigues began her career as an award-winning journalist and continued her career in advocacy as a long-time labor activist, communicator and organizer with the world’s largest local labor union, 1199SEIU, leading major campaigns across the country. Armed with this experience and success, Rodrigues has served as founder and Mom-in-Chief of Massachusetts Parents United, the largest parent advocacy organization in the Commonwealth, reaching more than 250,000 families across Massachusetts since 2016. Rodrigues has also worked as a senior advisor on dozens of nonprofit, ballot-issue and political organizing campaigns both locally and nationally. Keri sits on the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s “Influence 100” advisory group to transform the pipeline to education leadership to be more reflective of the composition of the Commonwealth as well as the Superintendent Rubric Refinement Project. Keri’s impact extends beyond Massachusetts Parents United as an elected member of the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee, serving on the Executive Committee of the Ethnic Council of the Democratic National Committee and the advisory board of Democrats for Education Reform.
Wendy Gonzales-Neal, from Houston, Texas is the Founder and Executive Director of My Child My Voice and a Texas delegate for the National Parents Union. As a parent and community advocate, she help parents become informed advocates for their own children’s education and take that passion for school choice to their communities where they empower their neighbors, schools and lawmakers. She began her career in the corporate world as a project manager and executive assistant and found her way into public education almost a decade ago supporting the work of YES Prep Public School’s alternative teacher certification program and college initiatives team. During her tenure at YES, she had the opportunity to hone her skills as a project manager and senior administrative assistant, but where she found the most energy and joy was when it came to supporting families and communities. Fueled by her love of family engagement, she transitioned to Families Empowered, working to organize parents, influence policy, and engage families across the state of Texas. In 2018, she launched My Child My Voice to continue serving as a change agent for students and families in Texas. In early 2020, she participated in the first convening of the National Parents Union and became a Texas delegate.
Shea Mackin, from Austin, Texas, has been a champion of school options for over sixteen years. Shea believes that every student is unique and deserves access to the education that fits their needs. She is here for outcomes. Her first role is mother to four amazing sons, but she still finds time to be an active volunteer parent leader in the Texas Chapter of the National Coalition for Public School Options since 2015. SHE DOES NOT STOP! Shea has been working with the National Parents Union since July 2020 and is now a Texas delegate. She is ready to get down to business in Texas and push NPU initiatives of parent power, equity, and options in education for families and working with legislators.
Read More About Parent Advocacy
- “‘Never Too Old or Too Young to Learn’—Wendy Gonzales-Neal of My Child My Voice,” Wendy Gonzales-Neal, San Antonio Charter Moms, December 16, 2020
- “Choose to Succeed Supports High Performing Charter Schools in San Antonio,” Inga Cotton, San Antonio Charter Moms, October 22, 2020
- “Texas Virtual Schools: Full-Time Online Schools for Kids in San Antonio,” San Antonio Charter Moms, August 18, 2020
- “Mothers of Invention: Frustrated With the Educational Status Quo and Conventional Parent Organizing, Two Latinas Gave Birth to a National Parents Union,” Beth Hawkins, 74 Million, January 27, 2020
- “A Great Hearts Parent’s Perspective: A Community of People Who Share the Same Loves,” San Antonio Charter Moms, October 8, 2019
- “Charters 101: Being a Charter School Parent Advocate—Founders Schertz Edition,” San Antonio Charter Moms, March 5, 2018