My Story: Family and Community Matters

November 17, 2016 |

My name is Marcela Andrés.

I’m a new Program Director for Raise Your Hand Texas. In my new role, my aim is to support schools and communities with designing cohesive and intentional family engagement strategies and to identify the most effective resources and evidence-based practices that equip families to be the strongest advocates of their child’s education.

“Education Cannot Be Taken From You.”

I come to this work with a passion born from personal experience as a student who relied on school, family, and community relationships to foster my academic success. I am a first generation, U.S.-born daughter of a Cuban immigrant father and Mexican mother. My journey through the Texas K-12 system began as an English language learner. Although we were extremely poor, my mother would always encourage me to dream big and to study hard, saying “Education cannot be taken away from you” and “the sky’s the limit.”

While my mother’s words of wisdom were encouraging, I constantly had English words jumbled in my head, their letters like a bowl of alphabet soup. In the 4th grade, I vividly remember coming home from school one day in a state of frustration. In Spanish, my mother asked what was wrong. I bitterly replied “nothing” knowing she would not be able to help me because she did not speak English. School had become more difficult. Math, which had to this point been my strongest subject, had progressed from numerical expressions to word problems. My level of English comprehension was affecting my ability to solve math problems. My mother asked me again what was wrong. I told her I didn’t know how to do my homework and that she couldn’t help me because she did not speak English. With tears in her eyes she looked at me and said, “I will break my back to make sure you get an education.” Then, she walked outside and knocked on our neighbor’s door to ask for help. Our neighbor, who herself had less than a high school education but understood enough English and math to support my learning, came over that evening and many other evenings for years to help me. In the meantime, my mother began taking English as a Second Language classes and eventually obtained her General Education Diploma.  

Returning to the place she grew up is bittersweet for Marcela.

Throughout my education, I had many academic champions at home, school, and in the community. I would eventually graduate high school and earn a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance at Saint Edward’s University. In 2016, I received a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I’m elated that in my work I get to focus on the power of family, school, and community partnerships.

With her mother and stepfather, Marcela celebrates earning her Master of Education degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Statistically, I was not destined to succeed, and yet, I was able to beat the odds with the support of my family and an engaged network of contributors. I believe families are the backbone of our communities. Families have the potential to be the strongest advocates and most determined coalition builders in our neighborhoods. I am living proof that families and communities play an essential role in advancing educational equity and producing successful outcomes.

Share your best practices

We invite Texas school leaders to share how your campus is cultivating a family and community engagement culture. Also, if you are a public or charter school leader who is dedicated to authentically engaging your families as partners, we want to send you and your team to Harvard, all expenses paid. Apply now to attend the Family Engagement in Education institute at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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