Watering Planted Seeds
Eva Heredia, Founding Parent & Parent Leader, Rocketship Discovery Prep
I’ve always wanted my kids to do better than me. I haven’t had the chance (yet) to fulfill my dreams of going to college. As a mom, I learned that I have to speak up so that my kids would have a chance and so that they could have the opportunities I never had. Learning to use my voice is even more important for me because as a Latina, we are often afraid to speak up in public and in big spaces full of professionally-trained white people.
I know that some people have the idea that my daughters will not make it to college because they are the daughters of Latino parents who immigrated to this country. Or that my daughters would not have an opportunity because they are from East San José. And how could the daughters of parents who never went to college themselves know what it takes to get there? But my oldest daughter, Esperanza, is proof that none of these stereotypes are true. She has been accepted into her first choice school, the University of California, Irvine, and will study psychology there next year. The first in our family to go to college, Esperanza hopes to become a criminal psychologist and is paving the way for her sister, Gabriela, to follow in her footsteps. I am so proud of my daughter and the hard work she put in to get here. But I know that the journey wasn’t easy.
Esperanza didn’t have a good experience in her neighborhood school when she entered kindergarten. My daughter is a quiet and shy girl, just like me, and felt excluded in her classroom. She wasn’t able to connect with her classmates and her teachers, which made it difficult for her to learn. I knew my daughter needed something different where they could blossom and grow and reach their full potential.
I learned about Rocketship by chance; I was at the public library for story time with my daughters while RDP was hosting a presentation for new families. The presentation was interesting so I stayed to listen. They talked about things like parent partnership and high-quality options for families like mine – concepts that weren’t talked about at our neighborhood school. Then a teacher (Ms.P)at the event helped us apply. Joining the movement with other parent leaders to open Rocketship Discovery Prep in 2011 was not only a blessing, but a major turning point in my life and Esperanza’s life.
Esperanza felt the difference on the very first day of first grade at Rocketship. She liked it better than her other school because it was easier to get to know her teachers and her classmates. She was able to build deep relationships with her teachers, many of whom she has kept in touch with until today. Teachers like Ms. Alvarez always pushed her to do well and get a head start on preparing for college. She fondly remembers that one of her favorite teachers, Mr. Huizar, kept his St. Mary’s college flag on his desk. Esperanza always told me that when she grew up, she wanted to apply to the same college because she respected Mr. Huizar so much.
I may have planted the seed, but Rocketship watered it. I never thought that I would be involved in politics. I didn’t think my voice mattered. But in 2014, a persistent community organizer from Rocketship convinced me to come to an organizing meeting for the San Jose Mayoral Candidate Forum. The community organizers and other parents showed me that advocacy is about fighting for a better future for our kids. It’s about seeing the opportunity ahead and making it a reality. So I took the chance and got involved. The first time I met with the mayor I was so nervous, too afraid to say anything in front of him. But over time I learned to find my voice. I remember crying along with one of the school board trustee members about education because I strongly believed that our kids needed to be prepared for the future because they are our future. Since then, I have spoken at many, many school board meetings, worked with elected officials, and even spoken to lawmakers in Sacramento. Someone has to speak up, and I have to be an example for my daughters.
I am forever grateful to Rocketship teachers for helping my daughter also find her voice. Just like how Rocketship gave me the tools to advocate for my daughter and all the families in my community, Rocketship taught my daughter how to be confident and ask questions, and take charge of her learning. In fourth grade, Mr. Huizar would take Esperanza aside and encourage her to use her voice when she didn’t understand something. He made her feel comfortable speaking up in class, and math, which was always a challenge for her, became fun and engaging. He would teach Esperanza and her classmates songs so they could remember difficult formulas for things like volume and area. Because of him, Esperanza conquered math but also learned when to ask for help, making her a stronger student all the way through high school.
Now I can say this is why I fought so hard alongside parent leaders all these years – through all the uncertainty of renewals and standing up to public officials who sometimes don’t take the time to listen to what Latina moms like me have to say. To those who listened and believed in this movement – thank you. But this is what I say to all the naysayers – the proof is there. The proof is here. Esperanza and her classmates are proof that high-quality education and meaningful family engagement can change lives, families, and entire communities. Even though my two daughters have long since left Rocketship, I continue this advocacy work because I want to give the same joy and pride to other families that I feel today. Other Rocketship parents inspired me when we fought to keep Rocketship Discovery Prep open, and I hope to provide the same inspiration to other Latina moms just like me. Just because I don’t have the same opportunities as my daughters and clean houses since I was 14 doesn’t mean that my kids have to follow the same path. As my kids beat the odds at school, I make my voice louder and louder to advocate for a better future for all of us.
Published on June 7, 2023