by Luis Figueroa, Associate Director of External Affairs (pictured above far right, with wife Jeanette and daughter Camilla)
Back to school we go again…
There is always a point in the year that brings me personal joy but also a sense of urgency that I need to do more. That is because I go back to the most important thing I’ve ever heard someone say, “Our students right now are the present, not the future, the future is the generation that isn’t even here yet.” For me, my ultimate “North Star” is to create a public education system that is first centered on meeting the needs of students and families from underserved communities.
As the Associate Director of External Affairs, I get the opportunity to work toward that “North Star” every day. My role doesn’t work within school buildings, instead I work with how local and state government think about building and dismantling all of the variables that impact the way our students, families, and youth live their lives. As you can imagine, there are times when our local and state legislators put out policies that perpetuate systemic issues and when that happens, we have to push back. I work on how PLN can push back, build the positive legislation, and positive relationships with our government representatives. In a nutshell, I have a pretty cool job that I like to show up for every day.
So how does this connect to back-to-school? Well I wouldn’t be here typing this without my education. I am a first generation college graduate from a low-income background. Like so many of the immigrant stories, my parents didn’t have high earning jobs. My mom cleaned houses, worked at factories, and was a nanny. My dad, well he worked under the table at liquor stores, oil change shops, and threw newspapers at night. If I can summarize my childhood experience, I would say that moving was the norm, evictions sucked, and the neighborhood motel was always there for us. Given all of this, I wasn’t the A+ student – far from that! I barely made it out of high school and literally failed all my classes in community college. I was interested in getting a paying job ASAP. However, my parents would ALWAYS tell me to get my degree because that is the one thing that no one could ever take away from me. I didn’t really understand that statement until I was older. Fast forward a few years, I got my bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State. Education, with a little bit of hustle, literally opened doors for me that I could never imagine growing up.
So, every August I get excited as I think of the countless scholars that walk in through our doors and let their imaginations run wild when they ponder what “growing up” will look like. For some it might be hard like it was for me, but I know that at PLN we are working hard to ensure that they see the bright lights at the end of the tunnel!