MPU VOICES: Rodolfo Aguilar on the next DESE Commissioner

TO THE MASSACHUSETTS BOARD OF EDUCATION:

My name is Rodolfo Aguilar and I live in Hyde Park. I am a father of 3 kids, 2 young boys and 1 girl.  My 3 kids have gone to Brooke Charter School in Roslindale, as a result of putting my oldest son Daniel into the lottery. We were fortunate that his name got picked and that is how we had the opportunity to have our kids in public charter schools.

My wife Dora and I spoke about the future of our kids, their dreams and how they are going to reach those dreams.  My oldest son Daniel wants to own his own business, David wants to be a surgeon and my daughter Ashley wants to be a teacher. But this is only possible through a quality education. Education means everything to our family. That is why we are following the process to select a new commissioner of education.
When I first moved to United States from my native country Guatemala I settled in Jamaica Plain and graduated from Jamaica Plain High School (English High School today).  I wanted to go to college, but my teachers and counselors were skeptical and told me I was not academically prepared to do college level work.  I really wanted to succeed and those words discouraged me from applying to many colleges and universities in the area.

When I started receiving the letters in the mail from these institutions they revealed to me a reality my teachers and my academic advisors knew: the students at this school were not being prepared to do college level work.  The letters for the most part read “We regret to inform you, but you have not been selected”. I felt that I was cheated out of a great opportunity in my life. I had completed all my assignments, I had taken all the tests and done well. But I wasn’t where I wanted to be.

My dreams were crumbling, and I did not know what to do. However, in late June 1982 I received a letter from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, they were considering my entrance to school through the Bilingual Collegiate Program, an academic support program to help students like myself.  In the first semester I was taking intense English language classes and pre-calculus, classes usually taught in high school.  I had to work very hard and received a lot of academic support the entire 4 years I was in college. I wished that I had received this support before I started college. And I was aware that I was not alone- many other students were in the same position. It seems like generations of students are living through this reality- not being prepared for college and the work force, and being left behind.

Unfortunately, I see our youth in the urban areas having the same type of education in Boston Public Schools. So many of our young students are dropping out of high school and are not completing their high school education. It is appalling that 35 years have gone by and the public educational system is not improving what is being taught in the classroom.  This is the main reason I have become an active member in the community. Currently I am advocating for the improvement in public education in urban areas: specifically in my neighborhood on average school are ranked level 3 and 4. We need to do better!

I want the new education commissioner to hear my story and know that others out there feel the same. We need to improve education for every student- in every city, every school and offer new opportunities for families that have not been available in the past. Let’s work together and help parents who want better for their families. The new commissioner should prioritize what families are saying and give them a platform to use their voices. This is going to involve everyone coming together and being true partners. Let’s end the bitterness that exists out there and start a new chapter where families, schools, unions and community leaders are on the same page.

Thank you.
Rodolfo Aguilar

Hyde Park

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