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Expand the 'village'


LeaderVoice: Racial equity and excellence in education

by Jennifer Godinez

How will Minnesota "close the achievement gap"? Reaching the goal of racial equity in education and eliminating race as a predictor of academic outcomes will not take one policy or one program or one excellent teacher-it will take a movement. Closing the gap will take different practices in education and a belief in everyone's inherent talent and worth.

As a first-generation daughter of Mexican immigrants who attended college and graduate school in the U.S., I get this at a very personal level.

My parents had limited English skills and little experience with U.S. public and college systems-but a strong public education system and public school teachers complemented my parents' support with the knowledge and skills I needed to be successful in school and college. The schools listened to my parents and my parents became partners with the teachers for my success. The public policy context behind my schooling was evident-Latina girls (unlike past historical eras of segregation) had the same rights to college preparation classes and entrance to college as anyone else.

Next in my development was a strong nonprofit organization whose mission it is to train more Latinas and Latinos-equally-in preparation for college and community life. Public policy around equal treatment for women in higher education ensured that whatever major I was interested in studying (unlike historical limitations for women of only studying "female" professions), I could study.

Today, I sit proudly as a public policy analyst and social movement leader in education in the nonprofit sector. I've been told that I've raised the standards in this profession. Contrary to some against race equity, no "standards were lowered" by having a different voice and a different perspective like mine in the nonprofit sector.

Of course, several women and male leaders of all backgrounds supported my pathway. Foundation program officers funded my college and graduate school scholarships. They had a vision for a more racially just society and made the sufficient case to their boards to invest equitably in this daughter of immigrants and many other generations of children of color.

The biggest lesson in my story is that dreams and talents of girls of color are endless-so it is our systems, institutions and public policies that have a large role in shaping the opportunities and pathways to realize every girl's dreams and talents.

Jennifer Godinez is the associate director of the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership, www.mmep.org


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