2021 Hispanic & Latinx Heritage Month

In honor of Hispanic & Latinx Heritage Month, we’re recognizing some of the many Hispanic and Latinx leaders across the Network who are leading efforts to ensure that every student in every community gets the education they need to achieve a future without limits. This year’s theme is “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope”. We asked leaders to reflect on their hopes for students as another school year begins.

Interested in nominating a leader to be featured? Let us know. Please reach out to Ashley Schmidt.

Brandon Garcia, Senior Director of Community Engagement, Texas Public Charter Schools Association

Portrait of Brandon Garcia in a gray suitThis school year, my hope for Hispanic and Latinx students, families, and educators is to take stock and optimize — to refocus on the only real things we have in life…like time. Time is our one non-renewable resource; the wealthiest cannot buy more of it, and the poor receive no less of their share (we are all given 24 hours each day). As this era of sickness passes, let’s jump wildly into the space in between “normal” and waste. Let’s think about how we use our time. Let’s optimize every second. Let’s realize that every passing minute is a chance to turn it all around. This year, let’s finally understand this liberating truth: that our life is ours to create.


Damary M. Bonilla-Rodriguez, Director of the Leaders of Color New York, Democrats for Education Reform

Portrait of Damary M. Bonilla-Rodriguez in a navy blue suitI’m full of esperanza this year. I hope that Hispanic families have the support they need for a successful year. That students have access to the resources and the individuals that will ensure their diverse needs are met and that families will have the information they need to be partners to the educators who are with their students. Success across the board.



Dilan Pedraza, National Policy Specialist, Teach Plus

Portrait of Dilan Pedraza in a gray suitAs students return to school in the fall, my deep hope for Latinx communities is that we lead with intentional narratives in and outside of the classroom. Growing up, narratives or cuentos, were a deep part of how we saw ourselves, family and heritage. What stories will we pass down generations from now? My hope is that we continue telling our children stories of love and strength. How even in the midst of a deadly pandemic and financial insecurity, we found strength, community and resilience to push forward. I hope we continue telling cuentos our community can find hope in.


Felipe Vieyra, Denver Director, Lyra Colorado

Portrait of Felipe Vieyra in a black suitAs the first of my family to graduate from high school and college, I know how important the start of school is for our Hispanic and Latinx students, educators, and their families. My hope for you all as you start the school year is to remember how brilliant you all are. That you carry with you the gifts that your ancestors, parents, and community have imparted on you. That you have every ability to achieve your goals and dreams, and that no one can hold you back from realizing them. Remember your roots and lean on your Latinidad. Your culture is beautiful. It’s what makes you, you and that is powerful.


Juana Iris Meza, Family Leader Program Coordinator, GO Public Schools Fresno

Portrait of Juana Iris Meza in a yellow floral blouseLlevo viviendo en Fresno aproximadamente 12 años, tengo 4 hijos, de los cuales tres de ellos son estudiantes del Distrito Unificado de Fresno. Me complace ser un padre líder y poder ser la voz de todas esas familias que estamos abogando por grandes cambios positivos en la educación.

Hemos pasado un año muy duro por esta pandemia, a causa de eso nuestros hijos fueron los primeros afectados tanto académicamente y mentalmente, por esa razón creo que es necesario que ellos vuelvan a sus escuelas a tomar clases presenciales porque el socializar con otros estudiantes a ellos les ayuda mucho mentalmente, pero queremos que eso suceda de una forma segura y efectiva para nuestros hijos.

Queremos mas maestros certificados, calificados y preparados para poder liderar en estos tiempos difíciles y con grandes cambios en las escuelas. Pedimos que cada minuto de tiempo invertido en la enseñanza de nuestros hijos sea de calidad y con altas expectativas. Creo firmemente que nuestros hijos son el futuro de este país, por ende ellos merecen una educación de calidad y equidad.


I have lived in Fresno for about 12 years and 3 of my 4 children are students of the Fresno Unified School District. I am proud to be a parent leader and to be a voice for all the families who are advocating for important and positive changes in education.

Families have had a very hard year due to the pandemic; our children were the first affected both academically and mentally by school closures. I think it is necessary for students to go back to their schools and take face-to-face classes because socializing with other students is very important for their mental health, but families want that to happen in a safe and effective way for our children.

We want more certified, qualified, and prepared teachers to be able to lead in these difficult times to navigate the many changes in schools. We ask that every minute of time invested in teaching our children be of quality and with high expectations. I firmly believe that our children are the future of this country, therefore they deserve a high-quality, equitable education.


Leslie Villegas, Senior Policy Analyst, Education Policy, New America

PLeslie Villegas

Growing up, I remember being embarrassed and ashamed whenever my mom spoke Spanish in public. As a child I had bought into the myth that to be ‘American’ I could not be Mexican as well, and if I could go back now, I would tell myself to be proud of both parts of my identity.

Today, I realize how hurtful that must have been to my parents who worked hard to make sure I was bilingual. I hope students, educators, and families recognize that their linguistic and cultural diversity is an asset that many dream of having and is invaluable to the prosperity of America.

My message for Hispanic and Latinx communities is: do not let anyone take that away from you. It is a strength, our strength, and we have the right to be here and have equitable access to opportunities that will help us succeed. We should take up as much space as we need to be seen and heard.


Lexi Lopez, Director of Communications and Advocacy, EdVoice

Portrait of Lexi Lopez in a light blue suitThis past year, I’ve been reminded of my favorite book as a child – Esperanza Rising. Like Esperanza, our whole world has been turned upside down and many students feel lost and afraid of an uncertain future while dealing with unfathomable circumstances.

I hope that leaders recognize the disproportionate effects the pandemic had on the Latinx community and we can work collaboratively to address inequities and ensure that the last thing students need to worry about is access to an equitable opportunity to succeed.



Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds, Vice President of Policy, ExcelinEd

Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds

I have many hopes for our Hispanic school community, but I have more hope for an understanding of who we are and what we believe.

We are not a monolith nor are we an “X.”

We are varied by our faith, our politics, our ethnicities, our values, and our cultures. We are mixed by race. We are Native American and/or Black and/or Caucasian. Our “lived experiences” differ, yet we persist as a community to leverage our economic and social capital to support one another.

We are proud contributors to society, so focus on what we can do. Not what others think we cannot.



Lorena Moreno, Family Leader Program Coordinator, GO Public Schools Fresno

Portrait of Lorena Moreno in a striped blouseOrgullosamente Latina, Hispano-hablante.

Mis esperanzas en este regreso a clases para mi comunidad en general, es que cada una de estas personas y niños alcancen sus sueños y metas.

Soy firme creyente que la educación es el mejor camino para lograrlo, es por eso que trabajar alrededor de las familias ayudando a entender el sistema educativo es la mejor herramienta que podemos regalar a nuestra comunidad.

Y es mejor aun si sazonamos esta receta con amor y pasión.


Proudly Latina, Spanish-speaking person.

My hope for my community at large in this back-to-school season is that each person and child achieves their dreams and goals.

I am a firm believer that education is the best way to achieve this; that is why working with families and helping to understand the educational system is the best tool that we can give to our community.

It’s even better if we build the foundation with love and passion.


Paula Cole, Executive Director, E4E-Minnesota

Portrait of Paula Cole in a black ruffled blouseDuring my time as a Spanish immersion teacher, I spent many years incorporating a multicultural approach to Hispanic Heritage month content within my lessons. Like I did then, I hope that our Hispanic and Latinx students, educators, family, and community members continue to embrace our language and values, to teach and learn our true history, and to keep our many traditions alive.

Culturally relevant education that incorporates everyone’s culture is proven to increase academic outcomes and reduce disciplinary actions. Let’s take advantage of this joyful celebration to start off the school year strong as we learn about different cultures.



Tania de Sá Campos, Deputy Chief of State Operations, Democrats For Education Reform

Portrait of Tania de Sá Campos in a black blouseThis past year has been difficult for all of our students, families, and educators, but our Hispanic and Latinx communities have disproportionately borne many of the impacts of the pandemic. As our children return to classrooms, my wish is that they are welcomed into a warm, compassionate environment that will meet them where they are and provide the care and support they need to thrive personally and academically. I hope we provide families with an opportunity for a restorative, safe re-entry to our school communities, and provide teachers with the resources and support they need to guide students through the ongoing uncertainties of the year ahead.




Anna McDaniel-Wyatt

Anna McDaniel-Wyatt

Analyst, Communications & Member Engagement