Leonel Popol is being honored as a Latino Educator Champion of Change.
As a Bilingual School Counselor at Cardozo Education Campus in Washington, DC, I have hoped to create change that will last generations after I’m gone. I believe that the sign of a true educator is someone who creates impact that can exist long after the educator is gone.
I have worked with the English Language Learners student population at Cardozo since September of 1998. At the time, I knew that I wanted to serve and give back to my community. Cardozo provided me with the perfect opportunity. From the very beginning, I felt that every child was essential and a reflection of the divinity of the universe.
At Cardozo, I have counseled students who have achieved valedictorian and salutatorian status and have also witnessed students succumbing to gang violence. I have celebrated joyously with students who were awarded college scholarships and have watched others instead go to jail and lose their futures because of their poor decisions. To keep myself going, I have to take pride in the successes and use the failures as motivation to work even harder.
When I meet parents at Cardozo, I already know the shoes that many of them have walked through. I immigrated to this country 29 years ago and initially worked in construction and housekeeping. I have lived many of the challenges and hardships those parents and their families face every day. I want my students and the community to dream big and work hard to make those dreams come true. I think of students as the little seeds that have the potential to become mighty oak trees. Dreams do come true after all for those who dare to dream and have the determination to achieve great things.
Leonel Popol is a Bilingual Counselor at the Francis L. Cardozo Education Campus in Washington, DC. He is also the coach of Georgetown University’s women’s soccer team.