Home / Blog / Meet This Year’s Parent Organizing Award Winners

Meet This Year’s Parent Organizing Award Winners

At Rocketship, we believe in Parent Power. We see it come to life every day as parents demand a better future and a more just education system from their local leaders. Countless parents contribute to our Rocketship community every year, but these mothers and fathers stood out to us, which is why we’re excited to honor them as this year’s recipients of the Parent Organizing Award. These incredible parents took the time to reflect on how their involvement with Rocketship’s parent engagement community has affected their lives or perspective on your child’s education. Then, our staff highlighted how they’ve impacted their local community. Here’s what they have to say:

Cynthia Cathey

“I chose to become a parent leader to help my children and other children become leaders themselves. I also wanted to show other parents that they are more than just a parent who volunteers at school; they can make a difference in the community, as well.”

Why She Stands Out:
Cynthia is a founding member of the Rocketship Delta Prep’s Parent Organizing Committee (POC). She successfully led the POC and larger school community through a contentious and lengthy Action campaign in 2019 to keep the local district from closing their school down. She has coordinated, participated in, and chaired over seven research meetings in the past year with school board and city council members and candidates, and worked tirelessly to mobilize her whole school community for multiple large School Board actions, advocating for her school. Cynthia works hard to educate herself and her school community on local education and city politics by attending and speaking publicly at countless School Board and City Council meetings and working to improve school-community relations by attending local community events, such as Chamber of Commerce meetings and Kiwanis and Rotary Club events to advocate for Rocketship. In addition to her work with the POC, she is a member of the RDL SSC and the East Bay Regional Advisory Board, and will soon be joining the Antioch Rotary Club board, to represent Rocketship. Cynthia is a powerful advocate for her school, her own children, and closing the achievement gap in her community, and is a passionate and dedicated organizer who is always seeking to improve her craft, no matter what obstacles her family or the school community encounters along the way.

Arlaee Hernandez

“Decidí enviar a mis hijas a la escuela Rocketship porque es la escuela en la que confío porque tienen la capacidad de sacar lo mejor de los niños como personas y como estudiantes y eso me da la seguridad que los están preparando para el éxito. Muchas gracias por ser la escuela en la que mis hijas quieren estar.

Why She Stands Out:
We’re celebrating Arlaee for her time, hard work and dedication throughout the seven years that Rocketship has been in Milwaukee and for all that you do for our school. As a founding parent, she has always been instrumental to our Rocketship family. We want to acknowledge and appreciate her for always being available and for being a leader in different ways. She is a true inspiration for our community!

Jade Carr

“There are so many reasons that I can say why I send my son to Rocketship. Rocketship was like a godsend for my son Nzuri. He has come such a long way from when he first started. Zuri was diagnosed with mild autism. He’s doing things that his therapist said that will take “time”. The Rocketship staff is more than enough. They go over their call of duty as being a teacher. They are not just staff or teachers to the Rocketeers, they are family.”

Why She Stands Out:
Jade is a constant support and is always going over and beyond in any way she can at Rocketship. We are very thankful for her constant recruiting of new families for Rocketship at the Silver Spring Neighborhood Center. We are grateful for her continuing parent engagement by attending parent coffees and panels. We all love the joy she has every time she walks in the school doors and the happiness she brings others.

Gabrielle Alston

”As a PAVE parent leader and as a parent of a son with special needs at Rocketship, it’s really important to me that parents feel empowered to speak on issues that impact their own children personally. It’s important because you come to find out that other parents are experiencing the exact same issue.”

Why She Stands Out:
Gabrielle Alston is a quiet, unassuming woman whose advocacy speaks volumes. From attending every single parent organizing event and meeting to bringing together families even amidst strife, to pushing for me as an EO to do better, be better, serve better, Gabrielle has proven herself an invaluable member of the Parent Organizing Committee, a trusted source among her peers, and a true advocate for all children with special needs.

Ashley McMichael

”When I think of the experiences in my life that have piqued my desire to serve those from resource-challenged communities, I think of the saying ‘be who you needed when you were younger.’ I realized at a young age that I had both a voice and influence amongst those in my community, and knew that I wanted to use my voice to ensure that all disenfranchised families could thrive.”

Why She Stands Out:
From starting the first of its kind in the network Parent Action Committee to fighting for additional resources for families by advocating for quality schools and recruiting and building a team of 15 educators, funders, wraparound service providers, curriculum specialists, and vocational teachers to create a high-quality middle school that she hopes to open in SY21-22, to pushing for DDoT to provide safer roads for RLP students, Ashley McMichael has consistently shown that she will always go above and beyond to serve our families.

Karuna Kalyani Karra

“My parents are my own motivation and role models and with their inspiration, I try my best to help people and I LOVE kids so I want to help them unconditionally to mold their FUTURO at school. Maybe this help can be a ‘drop in the ocean.’ This is what made me become a parent leader.”

Why She Stands Out:
Kalyani was one of the founding members of Rocketship Futuro Academy’s Parent Organizing Committee in 2019. Since then, she has been a consistent and reliable parent leader that has worked hard to recruit other POC members, lead Community Renewal Events to educate the school community about the upcoming campaign and deliver powerful testimony to multiple public officials. Kalyani has led efforts to improve school-community relations by inviting school board members to meet with the POC, attending local community events like the Concord Mayoral Address in order to speak on behalf of Rocketship, accompanying community members on tours of the school, and coordinating both school and community communication efforts. Kalyani is a strong public speaker and talented relationship-builder that pushes her team to think outside the box. As the president of the RFA SSC, she is involved in every aspect of parent leadership on the RFA campus and dedicates countless hours to both the POC and SSC groups, acting as an advocate for parents in every aspect of the school and larger Concord community.

Mai Huong Ho-Tran

“As a parent member of the Board, I’ve grown in my appreciation for both the level of detail it takes to run the day to day, as well as the heart it requires to serve all students. We can often get focused on just our own children or our own school, but participating in parent engagement has given me a bird’s eye view of Rocketship’s mission and heart of service. Our students are blessed with incredible teachers. I can only hope that my involvement in some small way, contributes to the quality of the learning experience for our students, the excitement of our teachers and the increased commitment to be involved by more parents.”

Why She Stands Out:
This is the 2nd year Mai Huong has assisted our Los Dichos Team to translate the readings to Vietnamese. She always graciously offered to help with anything that comes your way. She have helped us sell shirts and it is amazing to see her in action selling in English, Vietnamese, and Spanish, languages you dominate fluently. She was also sought out to be part of Rocketship’s Board and also assisted in organizing this year’s Lunar Celebration, which brought joy to so many of our families. Thank you, Mai Huong, for all you do!




Niki Holman

“My involvement with Rocketship’s parent engagement community has empowered me to not only be an active member in my son’s learning, but to also be empowered in making sure my voice and values are heard. I feel like I am an important and valuable member of my child’s education as well as my community.”

Why She Stands Out:
Niki has done an incredible job helping connect our school with resources, mobilize families, and support teachers during challenging times. We really appreciate her! Congratulations!

Joshua Alexander

“My involvement in Rocketship’s parent engagement community has been very beneficial as a parent. I feel much more connected to the school, and in some ways my children as well. I am able to have a really good understanding of the issues other parents have. I am also better equipped to help the school leadership where possible, and it also gives me a good understanding of the politics involved in keeping Rocketship schools open. I am also able to have an influence at times over both of my daughter’s education as an active member of the Student Site Counsel. Being an involved parent also shows my children that I’m committed to their education and that support and encouragement I believe gives them additional motivation to be successful students.”

Why He Stands Out:
Thank you for all the work you have done this year at Rocketship Discovery Prep! You have been instrumental as this year’s SSC President. We want to acknowledge and appreciate that you have been consistently available to help in a multitude of ways at RDP. From your attendance at Los Dichos, support at field trips, to help as we were preparing for school closures, you were always present to lend a hand. Your commitment to increasing parent engagement and joy at RDP has been relentless and we appreciate your efforts!

Samantha Pe-Wong

“My involvement in Rocketship has been one of support. I attend the monthly community meetings, parent nights, book fairs, and parent-teacher conferences to know how I can support my kids the best. I also attend the school district meetings to support Rocketship, to show my presence. I grew up and went to the public schools in the community my kids attend Rocketship. Therefore, I have perspective when it comes to the education my kids are provided. They feel supported by their teachers and yet challenged to do their best, to “go above and beyond” and to be “persistent”. They were both chosen as Scholar of the Month this school year, my third grader in March and my kindergartener in April. Their teachers were spot on when justifying their award. My third grader is persistent, independent, diligent and isn’t afraid to ask questions and my kindergartener is eager to learn, tackles any challenges, and his brain has definitely grown in size, literally. I honestly believe the teachers and administrators are the reason why my sons excel. Rocketship has affected my life for the better and has shown me that public education doesn’t have to have limits when it comes to a child’s education. I see my children surpass their limits daily and am grateful for Rocketship allowing them to continue to grow and challenge their minds.”

Why She Stands Out:
Thank you, Samantha, for being involved at school and with distance learning. You and your kids are always on for Facebook lessons & activities, zooms & google classrooms. This shows how much you care about your student and our community. Thank you for being a very supportive mom!

Patricia Ramirez

“Para mi e tenido muy buena relación con mi comunidad y sobre mi niña estoy muy feliz por q a tenido muy buena educación en rocketship y muy buenos maestros y directores.”

Why She Stands Out:
“Le queremos agradecer por todo, siempre va más allá para apoyar a nuestros estudiantes y familias. Incluso durante sus momentos difíciles. A pesar de un riguroso horario de trabajo, usted siempre se a esforzado por venir a Alma para ayudar en todo. Usted es conocida como la “Madre de Alma” por nuestro personal porque hace que todos se sientan que, independientemente de si tienen una familia cerca o no, que tienen alguien al pendiente para cuidarlos y apoyarlos. Durante estos tiempos difíciles e inesperables, queremos reconocer que ha seguido participando en actividades de toda la escuela. Sigue asistiendo al lanzamiento, almuerzo y aterrizaje todos los días, le agradecemos que sigue apoyando cada Rocketeer. De nuevo gracias por todo su apoyo especialmente ahora, su sonrisa sola construye comunidad, la agradecemos ahora más que nunca!”


Aaron Curtis

Aaron has been an instrumental parent organizing leader in the Rocketship Fuerza community. From the moment that he realized that there was an opportunity to help his community on a grander scale, he dove right in. He has collaborated with the Parent Organizing Committee to lead parent trainings and events, participated and led in meeting with local and state representatives, and continue to place his community first. Thank you, Aaron, for your contributions to parent organizing!

Ariana Heredia

“Mira yo te confieso con vergüenza que mi hija mayor se graduara del octavo grado este año y jamas me involucre para nada en su escuela yo solo iba a la junta con sus maestros para saber sus grados y era TODO, yo creía que yo llevaba a mis hijas a su escuela y al entregarlas en sus respectivos salones ahí acababa mi trabajo y les entregaba toda la responsabilidad a los maestros, involucrarme en la escuela de mis hijas me ha sido muy beneficioso, andar activa y ayudar en todo lo que pueda, sentirme útil puedo decir que ayudo desde mi autoestima asta la educación de mis hijas, el conocer y convivir con el personal de la escuela me ha dado la confianza para aserrcarme a ellos cada que lo ocupo o tengo alguna duda o problema, también nunca pensé en la felicidad y el orgllo que sentirian mis hijas al verme involucrada en su escuela ya hasta ellas me buscaban o me recordaban actividades que tenía la escuela. Ahora creo y siento como padre que es mi deber y responsabilidad también de ayudar en la educación de mis hijas. E conocido mucha gente e echo nuevas amistades entre otros padres de familia y e socializado mucho más.”

Why She Stands Out:
Orgullosamente quiere reconocer a Ariana Heredia por todo su labor en ayudar este año escolar. Recordamos cuando la Sra. Cruz solicitó ayuda en octubre para el evento del Día de los Muertos, dio un paso al frente para ayudar a armar nuestro altar y también reunió a familias para ayudar. Los Sueños también quiere reconocer todo el empeño que demostró desde el principio del proceso de renovación. Siempre asistió las juntas y tomó papeles importantes para ayudar en todo lo que pudo. Creció en su liderazgo ayudando organizar reuniones, haciendo preguntas a los trustees y compartiendo su propio testimonio de por qué eligió RLS.

Monica Gutierrez

“Yo en lo personal desde que me he involucrado en el grupo de Rocketship Mateo Sheedy me he dado cuenta de que nosotros como padres somos una parte esencial para que la educación de nuestros hijos sea de calidad, he aprendido de varios padres mucha información sobre educación, además es un grupo en el cual podemos opinar y dar sugerencias de como podemos ayudar a lograr nuestra meta, conozco a padres de otras escuelas, ahora que sucedió lo del C9VID-19 me sentí muy orgullosa de pertenecer ala Comunidad de RMS por que mi vecina tiene a su niña en la escuela del distrito y me platica que su hija en las primeras semanas que no hubo escuela no estaba haciendo tareas, pues la escuela no les había dado paquetes y no se comunicaban con ellos para asesorarlos en como ayudar los estudiantes a que mantengan su nivel académico.”

Why She Stands Out:
Monica, Muchas gracias Mónica por todo lo que ha hecho para la comunidad de Rocketship Mateo Sheedy. Me acuerdo conociéndola el año pasado repartiendo flyers para pasar la voz sobre las leyes. Honestamente íbamos aprendiendo juntas usted continuó echandole ganas y ayudando en lo que podía. Durante el proceso de renovación usted fue integral a demostrar el poder que tenemos no solo como padres, pero como comunidad. Admiro su dedicación a la educación de sus hijos y a todas las familias de nuestra comunidad. Espero que continúe organizando, nuestras comunidades necesitan mas personas como usted abogando por nuestros derechos!

Hugo Castañeda

Dear Familia Castaneda, thank you for your endless support this school year at Rocketship Brilliant Minds. Hugo, you’ve been a phenomenal parent leader at RBM. As our SSC Vice President, you worked to ensure parents and staff are informed on issues affecting our community. You always encouraged families to get involved. Griselda, you have gone above and beyond to help our school and our community. We want to thank you for helping with organizing clothing drives and book drives at RBM to give families the opportunity to make an impact on other families, and on our broader community. We wanted to thank you both for being strong allies and raising community concerns. Thank you for being important members of our community.


Abigail Lopez, Rocketship Redwood City Prep

“En el primer año de mi hija en Rocketship me invitó Christabel a ser parte del grupo de padres líderes y acepte pensando que así podría ayudar a otros niños como mi hija y al mismo tiempo aprendería de cómo la escuela funciona, pero este segundo año decidí continuar en el grupo porque aparte de querer ayudar a otros padres, creo que es una forma de regresarle a Rocketship un poquito de lo MUCHO que ellos han ayudado a mi hija. Me siento honrada y bendecida de ser parte de una escuela como Rocketship y al mismo tiempo me siento orgullosa de ser parte de un gran grupo de padres.

Why She Stands Out:
Abigail has led her Parent Organizing Committee and mobilized her entire school community through two winning Action Campaigns for Rocketship Redwood City Prep: RRWC Renewal Campaign in 18-19 & RRWC Facilities campaign in 19-20. She is a consistent and reliable leader who is willing to take on any task to support the POC’s organizing work. She has planned and led research meetings, given public testimony at multiple high-stakes School Board Meetings, advocated for the school campaigns through blogging on La Comadre, and led Community Meetings to educate her own school community about organizing and parent voice. Abigail truly embodies parent leadership through her willingness to speak out on behalf of her school and her own child and take on any task to ensure the success of the campaign. Whether it’s arriving early to set up for large actions, serving pizza for hours, recruiting her husband Cesar to lend a hand, strategizing next steps, or supporting her other team members along the way with her positive, jovial attitude and motivating words, Abby has been a model leader for the RRWC and overall Rocketship parent community.

Maria Guadalupe Carbajal

Usted ha contribuido al comité de padres organizadores y ha amplificado nuestras conexiones con otros padres de la comunidad de Rising Stars. Le decimos gracias, Lupe, por ser una mama líder que ayuda a su Comunidad.

Daniel Lopez

Thank you for everything you have done and will continue to do for parents in Nashville. It is not always easy! You are very appreciated and we will always be family!

Debra Falcon

We want to show our appreciation for always supporting Rocketship Nashville Northeast Elementary. This year we also want to acknowledge you for your LEADERSHIP.  You stepped up and advocated for an opportunity that would benefit others. This is great leadership! We are grateful to have you.







Published on May 29, 2020

Read more stories about: Uncategorized.