Sadie Feibel Holmes is the Director of Education Programs at the Latino Network, a community-based organization that provides programs and services to support education equity, parent engagement, civic leadership and advocacy in Oregon’s Latino community. Through their Padres Promotores de Educacion (Education Promoters) program, she and a group of Latino parents joined CAUSA’s Advocacy Day in Salem last week (the day after the May Day rally) to share their hopes for education in Oregon with state legislators.

Relentless hope for our children’s future.

Anxiety about entering a government building in a foreign land.

Determination and commitment to stand up for the rights of our community.

Belief in the power of a quality education.

Such was the mix of emotion on the bus ride from Northest Portland to the Capitol Building last Monday, May 2. After two weeks of training, identifying critical issues, and preparing written testimony, a group of 36 Latino parents, children and their allies caravanned from Rigler and Scott Schools to Salem to speak face-to-face with legislators during CAUSA’s advocacy day.

This group of Latino parents is part of a Latino Network project called Padres Promotores de Educacion (Education Promoters), which strengthens the confidence and capacity of Latino parents to become agents of positive change and to promote their children’s academic success. The lobby day represented the first trip to Salem for all but one of the parents, and was the first time any of the participants had the opportunity to share their hopes and concerns directly with a state legislator.

Wearing blue t-shirts with the slogan “mis hijos = tu futuro / my children = your future,” the group arrived at the capitol building, and was quickly ushered into legislative appointments by CAUSA staff. During the legislative visits, parents advocated for the issues that matter most to them as it relates to their children’s education: tuition equity, driver’s license access, healthy school meals, and increased school funding for critical programs like bilingual ed, arts and enrichment, physical education, after school programs and academic tutoring. They also delivered over 400 postcards with messages about the same issues sent from community members who were unable to join the lobby day.

See photos from the Advocacy Day on the Latino Network Facebook page.

Back in Portland, the group debriefed their experience a couple days later. Everyone who went on the trip said that if given the chance, they’d do it again. They also said they’d encourage other community members to join them. Many parents who had planned to attend changed their mind as immigration fears overshadowed the desire to advocate for their children. In the midst of anti-immigrant sentiment, these fears are palpable.

As one mother shared, “When I said goodbye to my husband that morning, I said a special goodbye, because in my heart I knew it might be the last time we saw each other. And on top of that, I was taking our baby with me. I thought that immigration might detain us at the state capitol. I thought maybe I was crazy to take such a risk, to risk separating my family. Other mothers decided not to go for that very reason. Now I can tell them not to be afraid, that I went, and I made it home. And we have to keep struggling, keep standing up for our community, for our children.”

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