I am a parent champion.
For a while I didn't know my child's rights. The school system was new to me and I didn't understand it. For example, I didn't know that each school gets a letter grade that reflects how successful (or not) it is. I didn't know what an "A school" meant. But later I found out about an organization called Nuestra Voz, which builds the capacity of Latino parents as advocates so that their children have access to great schools. They helped me find and understand this kind of information.
My son had an operation on his ears when he was three, which has led to him having some problems pronouncing words with certain sounds. Because of this, he needs speech therapy. I was looking for help with the therapy through his school, and they asked me to sign some papers for Medicaid so that it would help pay the school for it. I'd been filling out this paperwork for a while (from pre-K) and I didn't realize that he hadn't been receiving adequate therapy. I found out that they were working with him for only half the time of the required session and were still charging me for the full time. After that, I told them that I'm no longer signing any more papers. So I started to communicate more with the therapist to make sure that she started to get more involved, because I wasn't seeing any progress in his abilities. I tried to talk directly to the principal, and the school told me I had to have an appointment, but they would never let me make one. So I just started to show up and wait, and still they would ignore me. One day I stayed there all day until someone saw me. That day, I was able to speak to the social worker, as well as the person who was in charge of all the therapy sessions. I told him what happened with my son and asked why he wasn't receiving full sessions. After that conversation, within a week they fixed the problem. I saw a huge change in my son and was able to get a lot of support from that point on. They gave me more information, more access, and every three months they kept me up to date on how he was doing and what was happening with him. I think they saw how persistent I was and it made them pay attention and start to take me more seriously. They knew I was going to ask about my son's well being and follow up.
My experience as a community leader has been very good. Nuestra Voz gave me the knowledge I needed. After working with them and learning about organizing, not only did I know more, but I was able to talk to more parents to give them the support to fight for their children, regardless of whether their kids are documented or undocumented. To support us, New Orleans should have more social workers, teachers and receptionists who speak our language, so that parents can have more access to the schools and to our kids so they can have an excellent education. It's important to fight for myself and my children's rights because we are free, we are independent. We have free will, so we have to keep fighting to stay that way because if not, we'll be marginalized.