Posted by Steven Levin on December 21, 2015 at 2:58 PM
Hilda Gomez remembers her mother sneaking out at 2am in communist Cuba to get contraband food from the mountains to feed her family, fearing the roads were too dangerous by day. They were hard times. Hilda left Cuba with her family when she was six and emigrated to the states. Life didn’t get much easier though, as Hilda recalls what her mother had to do to survive in her new home:
“I saw my mom coming here and knocking door-to-door, and selling clothes and selling fruit. And my mom used to tell me, ‘That doesn’t define me... What defines me is that I have the guts to get in there everyday and knock on that door.’”
Hilda’s mother told her something else she would never forget: the importance of education.
“My mom used to tell me: anything can be taken away from you, but the one thing they can never take away is your education”
Hilda is now a grandmother of four; thanks to hard work, her own daughter is a successful professional. Hilda evokes the same spirit with her grandchildren’s education as her mother did knocking on doors: with strength and relentless determination. So when the traditional schools in her area failed to diagnose her eldest grandson's dyslexia going into middle school, Hilda began a search for the help he needed.
“The schools are so populated and so impacted that he would just be one more statistic, I knew he would be.”
It was then that Hilda first discovered charter schools.
“Charter schools were able to give him the free tutoring, and so we found Magnolia Science Academy 8, and we knew from the beginning that it was a fit.”
Just another number. it’s a narrative we often hear associated with California education, or sometimes it’s the other way around: too special to be helped. Seems strange to be stuck between such extremes. It’s not surprising, given the rigid structure of our school systems, so rigid that they sometimes break. But Hilda found her charter school, Magnolia 8, to be different:
“They treat each child as an individual, not as part of a group. They do teach the concept of group learning, but they also know how to identify if one students needs additional help.”
It was her charter school’s ability to be flexible, to devote more individual time to her grandson, that allowed him to shine. And shine he did:
“And when he graduated, he graduated with honors . . .the help he was able to get there, the confidence that it gave him to be able to move onto the next step of his life, I know it came from that charter school, I know it came from those teachers, it came from that environment because it’s a positive environment, it’s a happy environment.”
So when her two twin granddaughters, brilliant students with no special needs, were about to enter middle school, Hilda knew it was a no brainer:
“Charter schools, I champion them forever, especially Magnolia 8.”