Rewriting the Story for My Kids and My Community
Sara Palencia, Rocketship Los Sueños Parent & Teaching Assistant at Rocketship Sí Se Puede
I grew up in East San Jose, living there since I was five years old. Immigrating from Mexico, I was an English Language Learner who went to neighborhood district schools from elementary through high school. I was able to make it to community college, attending Evergreen Valley College for an associates degree. I might have graduated from elementary, middle, and high schools, but I wasn’t really learning. And I knew I wasn’t ready to tackle post-secondary education the moment I stepped foot into my first college class. The first time I ever had to write an essay was in college – this means I didn’t even have the literary skills to be at grade level in middle school. I had to work three times as hard as anyone else just to keep up – but I was still failing my classes. In short, I felt lost like a fish in the vast ocean without any guidance or direction. I wasn’t able to graduate.
When I had my first child, I knew I didn’t want her to have to go through the same struggle that I did in college. I didn’t want them to suffer trying to pass their classes so they could get a degree and get ahead in life – I knew I wanted more for my kids. Because falling behind in grade school like I did means a lifetime of struggling to catch up. My two older siblings both attempted college just like me and couldn’t make it. My experience was just a repeat of the same old story for kids in my family and in my neighborhood. I knew if my kids had a strong foundation and access to high-quality education that would teach them the basics like phonics, they could reach for the stars. I wanted to rewrite the story for my kids.
My sister told me about Rocketship. She said it was totally different than anything we had experienced as kids going to neighborhood schools. My nephews were thriving and truly learning. So I enrolled my oldest at Rocketship Los Sueños as soon as she was old enough. I saw the difference immediately. Not only was my daughter deeply cared for and learning and growing, but as a parent, I was able to find community and support with RLS educators and other parents. The school community became my second family.
My parents never had that. My dad worked two jobs as a laborer and my mom worked in hotel laundry. They were so focused on keeping a roof over our heads and food on the table, but didn’t have the time or support to fully engage with our schooling because of the high economic demands of living in this area.
The RLS community always supported my kids and me above and beyond, and it was Ms. Elijah, my daughter’s teacher and my “coach”, who pushed and encouraged me to pursue becoming a TK assistant. She told me that my experience and dedication would greatly benefit the families Rocketship serves. And this is why I work at Rocketship Sí Se Puede. Because I understand those families. I work with TKers who are English Language Learners. I was that child. I work with families who work multiple jobs and find it hard to engage with school. My parents were those parents.
I get to coach families like Ms. Elijah coached me on how to best support their student’s education and stay engaged with schooling. Now, my oldest is 13. She’s thriving in middle school and preparing to go to high school. I have a 1st grade and a 3rd grader at Rocketship Los Sueños, following in her footsteps. I am enjoying giving back what Rocketship teachers gave my kids to the families I support at Rocketship. I feel like I am paying it forward – all the care, attention, and love that I receive from my children’s teachers. Together, we are rewriting the stories for our kids.
Published on February 24, 2023