Melissa with her family in costumes

We’re proud to celebrate the Hispanic culture, heritage, and traditions all year long. This week we’re even more excited because we sat down with an AF family to learn more about what Hispanic heritage means to them! Earlier this week, we talked to Iset, a first-grader at AF Bushwick Elementary. Today, we’re sitting down with Melissa, Iset’s mom, a student services manager at Achievement First.

Tell us about yourself!
I’m originally from the Bronx—the best borough (sorry, Brooklyn!)! This is my second year at Achievement First, and I’m a student services manager at AF Bushwick Elementary.

Can you share more about your Hispanic Heritage?
My parents are both from the Dominican Republic. My dad was the third person in his family to come to the U.S., and my mom was the first one in her entire family. They were in the DR for the Trujillo Era, but they left when the dictator was in power. They came to America for better opportunities.

Thank you for sharing that! What was it like growing up in the Bronx?
Growing up was great because we always had each other. I grew up with my sisters and brothers and our cousins. We would always hang out on Sundays. We all lived together in our apartment with two or three families.

Sounds like you’re really close with your family! What brought you to AF?
My fiancé Josh was working at AF, and he told me how great the school is. When it was time for our daughter to go into kindergarten, we knew we wanted her to go to AF. So we moved to Brooklyn, and I got a job at her school in Bushwick. I really believe in the school values because they align with my own values. A lot of the families at my school are Spanish-speaking, immigrant families, and they remind me of my own family. And the kids remind me of me when I was younger. My parents came here with pretty much nothing, and they didn’t speak the language. I wish there were people helping my parents navigate the American education system, so I’m really excited to do that for AF Bushwick families. That’s what really keeps me going.

What’s it like to work at the same school your daughter attends?
I love it because I know it’s a great school. I know that she’s getting a great education. Plus, I get to see her throughout this day.

Why do you think it’s important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at school?
Growing up, I struggled to fit in with American culture while maintaining my Latino life. I always felt a sense of not fully belonging anywhere. So I think it’s just important to celebrate the fact that we’re composed of many different cultural parts. Since the majority of kids at my school are also Latinx, I see myself in them. I see the struggle of trying to fit in somewhere. Kids spend so much of their time at school, so it’s important that we as educators celebrate them and the fact that there’s so much that makes us, us.

Do you think your heritage and experience informs your work?
Absolutely. I’m able to relate to a lot of people, and I’m still learning. All of us have different struggles and journeys, but I connect with parents and students. A lot of our families here are immigrants, they speak more than one language, they’re going to be the first ones in their families to go to college—just like my story.

Is there anything else that you think everyone should know about your Latinx experience?
We have a lot to contribute not only to this country and the countries of our families, but also to the entire world. We’re doing big things.

We’re so happy to have you as part of the AF family. Thank you for sharing your story, Melissa! Check out Iset’s story here.

We would love to have you as a part of our Achievement First family! 

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