We are proud to share the parent perspective of Lety Gómez in this guest post about being a parent leader and education advocate.
I grew up in a predominantly low-income, Latino community. I didn’t have the best experience in school growing up. My freshman year in high school, I had a science teacher—a big, white man—who did not want to sign my permission slip so I can go on a college field trip. He told me, “You are not going to go to college, so why do you want to go on the field trip?” I was upset and disappointed, but kept it inside me.
In my junior year in high school, I took an accounting class, which triggered my interest. My accounting teacher motivated me to learn and be engaged in his class. At the time, Fr. Mateo Sheedy was the pastor at my church. I remembered that he would always say that education is the key to end the cycle of poverty. So I decided to continue my education after high school, and I received my bachelor’s degree.
Due to my experience in school, I did not want to send my children to the same schools that had failed me. 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—the school system failed my two oldest children as well.
Becoming a Parent Leader
When our youngest daughter was going to start school in 2014, we moved back to the community I grew up in. I worked with parents to bring a new school option to our community. By volunteering as a parent leader, I learned more about the failed education system, the politics involved, and those who hold power and make decisions for our families and community. I learned the importance of civic engagement and holding elected officials accountable. I worked with other charter parents to hold the largest parent-led mayoral candidate forum in San Jose in 2014. We wanted to bring candidates together so the community can learn from their views on education.
I also utilized my parent voice by chairing meetings with elected officials and shared my testimony at many board meetings. I also had the privilege to testify at a State Assembly Education Committee hearing against a bill that was harmful to charter schools. I spoke as a parent leader, representing thousands of charter families from the state. I started learning about state bills and the process of how a bill becomes a law. And I realized the importance of being informed. So I got involved with organizations to learn more about the politics and the bills at the state and local levels. I signed up to receive alerts when there was a call to action for parents to defend charter schools. We mobilized parents from different charter schools and we drove to the state capitol multiple times to oppose bills that were harmful to charters. Thousands of charter families from across the state rallied together and showed their power by defending school choice.
Parents have a voice; I didn’t realize it until I learned community organizing tools and the importance of sharing my story with others. But the most important thing I learned is that I can not do this work alone. The experience I had in school is similar to many families. The struggle of finding a high-quality school option for our children is similar to many families. The issues are the same for many families across our country.
Building Parent Advocacy in Texas
Where I grew up, only private schools provided classical education, which we could not afford. So when I learned about Great Hearts and that it offers free classical education, I was excited to be able to have this option for my youngest daughter. I am learning the politics and process here in Texas, but quickly realizing that we parents must work together to ensure that our schools are treated fairly, that elected officials hear our stories, and that we hold them accountable to ensure that we can continue to have this option for our families and community. We must learn about who is running for local and state offices and be informed of their views on education.
Here in Texas, there is a need for equitable state funding for charter schools. We, parents, must unite and work together to demand equitable funding for charter schools, because charter schools are public schools. We parents are our children’s biggest advocates. Our voice and our vote matter. Together we can create change in our communities and across the state.
Charter Moms Chats
Watch Lety Gómez share her story of parent leader with Inga Cotton on Charter Moms Chats on Thursday, May 20, 2021 at 10:00 AM Central on Facebook and YouTube.
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.
Read More About Advocacy and Parent Leadership
- “Education Inequality: A Story About Charter Schools in Texas,” Lety Gómez, La Comadre, May 15, 2021
- “Student Stories: Dariela Galindo, Sophomore at Travis Early College High School in SAISD,” Dariela Galindo, San Antonio Charter Moms, March 2, 2021
- “‘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
- “Teacher Tales: “You Are My Why” — Abel F. De Leon at the School of Science and Technology,” Abel F. De Leon, San Antonio Charter Moms, (reposted by Education Post), November 4, 2020
- “Raising Parents’ Voices for Change: Introducing Texas Families First,” San Antonio Charter Moms, August 19, 2020
- “Charters 101: Being a Charter School Parent Advocate — Founders Schertz Edition,” San Antonio Charter Moms, March 5, 2018