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A Model for Tomorrow: Empowering Successful Students and Productive Communities

Nita Gonzales, President/CEO of Escuela Tlatelolco Centro de Estudios, dedicates her career to developing effective equal opportunity education for Latino and low-income youth. Nita and her school cater to "students through a foundation of cultural pride and self-esteem," which lead to success forthe students, their families and their communities.

Quoted in a Denver Post article, Nita Gonzales "was raised to work for a more just and humane world, to embrace my culture, language, and historical identity, to act in a principled and honorable way."

As a long time activist for Raza human rights, which included participation in Crusade for Justice, a Chicano/Mexicano civil rights organization started by my father, activist and community leader Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales, I have come to realize change comes through the power of people willing to stand for justice . Since the mid-eighties, I have been the President/CEO of Escuela Tlatelolco Centro de Estudios. A private community school in northwest Denver, Escuela Tlatelolco caters to Chicano/Mexicano students through a foundation of cultural pride and self-esteem, so "these young people [can] obtain an education that [will] help them go on to become successful adults who would benefit the community in return."

Concerned that Chicano and Mexicano students were consistently lagging behind other students in the public school system, Corky Gonzales with the collaboration of other Crusade parent activists sought to create an educational model that promoted academic excellence and achievement, instilled cultural pride and inspired students to become leaders in their community.

Each time a Latino child is undervalued educationally, we are all demeaned.

Every time low-income children’s educational choices are denied, we are all short-changed.

And every time a child drops out, or is pushed out, or denied educational success, we are all denied democratic leadership.

Our children’s fate and ours are linked, and it is this connectivity that is one of the greatest rewards of my educational and community work in Colorado.  Because any time children are encouraged, enlightened, educated, or empowered, each of us – everywhere-is enriched.

Imagine a high school where students come to class prepared to debate the effects of politics on national security, or the environmental neglect of today's societies. Imagine a room full of young people engaged in a passionate discussion about the injustices of poverty and the problems and solutions around health, education, and jobs. Imagine three, four and five year olds naming continents in Spanish and English--writing their name in cursive--and sharing and learning as a community. Imagine six, seven, and eight year olds knowing their world through scientific exploration. Now…imagine that some of these young people you just pictured, either was ready to give up on school at one time-or their parents wanted a quality, safe, nurturing educational environment.  Imagine that some in middle and upper school had been expelled from the public school system. It may seem impossible, but at Escuela Tlatelolco, that's exactly what you'll find.

In the spirit of my father, in the spirit of Cesar Chavez, in the spirit of my ancestors I work and use education and community engagement as tools to end the injustice of poverty, violence, and racism.  Through education and community engagement we can reclaim our humanity and say yes to the universal values of freedom, equality, and justice.

Nita Gonzales, is the President/CEO of Escuela Tlatelolco Centro de Estudios, a nationally recognized model for Chicano/Mexicano and indigenous education located in Denver, CO.