Although we don’t live in the hills, we deserve the same respect. And the same opportunities.
Mario Rodriguez has big hopes and dreams for his children. He wants them to continue to get a good education at Lighthouse Community Charter Schools (his daughter is in 8th grade and his son is in fifth grade). He wants them to graduate from college, and get a good job.
“I want my kids to have a better life than I did,” Mario says in Spanish.
Mario is a FIA Family Leader who lives in East Oakland and is a native of Puebla, Mexico. He immigrated to the U.S. to continue his education and ended up living in Oakland because he had an uncle living here.
He put down roots in Oakland, where he met his wife and had his kids, who are his top priority. That’s why he chose Lighthouse — he says they were previously in a district school that was performing fine. But “fine” isn’t good enough for Mario’s children.
“We had our mindset on Lighthouse, and we chose the school because it has a really high academic level and they want all kids to go on to college and graduate,” Mario says of Lighthouse. “We want the best for our kids, and Lighthouse was the best.”
Mario has been a FIA Family Leader advocating for his children’s access to quality schools since he was introduced by a Lighthouse family organizer in 2019. He says attending workshops organized by FIA has helped him feel empowered and more in control of his children’s education. More than anything, he says, he feels listened to.
“I know a lot of organizations don’t really take parents into account, and I’ve seen how FIA does that,” Mario says. “I have also learned a lot and I feel empowered. I feel confident going into meetings now and advocating for my child’s education.”
While distance learning has gone well for Mario’s children, the pandemic has hit their family hard. He suffered an illness in early 2020 that limited his ability to work and then lost his job because of the pandemic. His wife has returned to work cleaning houses, but income for the family is limited.
“We were depending a lot of the money that I made, so right now whatever income comes is really helpful,” Mario says. “We depend a lot on donations from the community, sometimes food that is given out. We take advantage of all of that. But it has been difficult to manage.”
No matter what, Mario isn’t going to stop advocating for his children and making sure they have the same opportunities as any child in Oakland, no matter where they live.
“I believe that all students should be supported, regardless of their race, class or where they live,” Mario says. “We hear a lot about the hills and how the opportunities for kids in the Oakland hills are different. Although we don’t live in the hills, we deserve the same respect. And the same opportunities.”
The work of FIA Oakland is led by families and students! We are building a citywide movement for quality schools through parent and student leadership, and reclaiming the narrative about public education so Black and Brown parent and youth voices are heard. Learn more about FIA at www.fiaoakland.org