Sandra Gutierrez is being honored as a Cesar E. Chavez Champion of Change.
Parents are among our country's unsung heroes. They shoulder the most important responsibility of all—raising our beloved country’s future generations. The parenting journey is rewarding, often challenging, and lasts a lifetime.
I’m grateful to be considered a White House Champion of Change and remain ever inspired by the hard-working families I have been privileged to learn from and work with for over 40 years.
Parents—regardless of their level of education, first language, immigration or economic status—have similar aspirations for their children. I often hear parents say, “I came here to work, to work hard, so that my children will have more opportunities than I had. I work so they will have a better life and a better future.” As leaders of their families, parents make decisions of great consequence, especially for young children. The good news is that small, positive daily acts—talking, counting, reading, singing—can have a big impact on children’s success.
The Abriendo Puertas / Opening Doors program acknowledges and honors that deeply held aspiration of many parents for a better future for their children. Abriendo Puertas is a two generation model designed to support this vision by working with Latino families to ensure that parents of children aged 0 to 5 are informed and engaged as their child's first and most influential teacher.
We frequently hear about the “achievement gap” between Latino and non-Latino children. I believe “opportunity gap” is a more honest term, because it identifies the root of the gap as systemic and circumstantial, rather than a failure on the part of the child. At Abriendo Puertas, we expand opportunities for families by taking the best research off the shelf and making it accessible and actionable for Latino parents throughout United States.
The Abriendo Puertas curriculum, infused with parent input, uses popular education methodologies. We demystify school readiness and promote parent leadership and advocacy. We provide key local data and outside resources such as Let's Move!, MyPlate, U.S. Dept. of Education Early Learning, and the Affordable Care Act. Armed with greater confidence and data about the education, economic and health status in their own neighborhoods, parents become vocal advocates for improving underperforming schools, increasing social and economic resources, and promoting healthier lifestyles.
In our efforts to ensure best practices and to contribute to the field, Abriendo Puertas recently participated in a rigorous independent evaluation by Child Trends. The study found that our program has a number of important areas of impact, especially related to education. These findings will allow us to continue to improve our services and focus our efforts in areas where we can have the most impact.
Cesar Chavez once said, “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.”
His clear belief in the heroism of farmworkers and the power of advocacy and collective action inspires us to work hard so that parents’ hopes and dreams for their children are converted into clear goals and informed plans. Important challenges—need for immigration reform, improving education quality—demand attention and are key to unlocking the incredible potential in our rising diversity. With the current historic focus on early education, reading, family engagement, and on boys of color, the climate is conducive for parent leadership and advocacy to help eliminate the opportunity gap and create a better future for children.
Sandra Gutierrez is the National Director of the Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors Program. Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors is the nation’s first comprehensive and evidence based training program developed by and for Latino parents with children ages 0 to 5.