I Was Fortunate To Get Where I Am Today Despite the Barriers in Place
By Juan Rangel, Director of Family Engagement
My parents came to Kansas City, Missouri in 1966 as immigrants from Mexico. As an immigrant family, and me as a first-generation student, we faced many issues that made it difficult to participate in the local educational system. My parents wanted the best for their two boys but couldn’t always help because of language barriers, cultural barriers and navigating systemic structures that were in place. Looking back, it would have been helpful to have some assistance in removing these barriers. There were some organizations and programs to support my parents, but most of them were only known by word of mouth with family friends. When we did stumble upon them, we were often too late to take advantage of them.
Naturally, as I reflect on my education path of graduating from high school, going to college, and then getting my master’s degree, I want to help families get the support they need sooner rather than later. In addition, my work as an educational counselor in the Latinx community through the LULAC National Education Service Center, and fighting racism, bigotry and bias with the historical civil rights organization National Conference for Community and Justice, and working in higher education as a professor and administrator has helped shape how I can better support families today. These combined factors make me passionate about my role at SchoolSmartKC (SSKC).
During my tenure at SSKC for the last year and a half as the Director of Family Engagement, I have focused on the Starting Smart pillar of our work – which is to find strategic ways to remove barriers for families and students so they are empowered to navigate their own educational path. It has been a fun and exciting learning experience and I appreciate being able to use my life and professional experience in my role at SSKC.
SSKC has made key strategic investments in a variety of programs and schools to empower our families in and out of the classroom including:
- Communities in Schools (CIS), who partner with our schools and students to focus on attendance, behavior, and grades by providing wholistic support to students and families
- Partnering with the Flamboyan Foundation to help teachers, school leaders and family engagement practitioners work with families to communicate high expectations, monitor their child’s performance, support learning at home, and guide their children’s education and advocacy for their child.
- Legal Aide’s program Justice in the Schools, which is designed to provide families direct access to free legal assistance with issues related to housing rights, evictions, family law and financial stability.
- Individual district and charter school programs to find best practices to support our Immigrant and Refugee families who face their own unique challenges.
Removing these barriers for families helps all students have the same opportunity to be successful in school.
I was fortunate to get where I am today despite the barriers in place. I now can help many families have access and learn about these opportunities sooner, and hopefully easier, to achieve their dream of their children being successful in school and in life.