Although this wasn't my first time attending a Los Cien of Sonoma County event, I left feeling energized and ready to help create positive change in Sonoma County. This month's conference focused on the State of Latino Education in Sonoma County, with a panel made up of distinguished leaders in Sonoma County; Diann Kitamura, the Superintendent of Santa Rosa City Schools, Dr. Frank Chong, the President of Santa Rosa Junior College and Dr. Judy Sakaki, the President of Sonoma State University.
There were dozens of community leaders that I recognized including staff from Sonoma State University, Pepperwood Preserve, Sonoma County Regional Parks, Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County, Santa Rosa Junior College, the City of Santa Rosa, Sonoma County Sheriff's Office and many more. Also attending were lots of students from a diverse group of educational institutions
The conference first started to go over the Chicanx and Latinx educational pipeline in California. The pipeline is a depiction of how Chicanx and Latinx fall through the cracks from early childhood to adulthood, but for the purposes of the pipeline, the cracks are actually leaks in a pipe. Roughly a third of the students that start in elementary school do not complete high school and roughly less than one percent will receive a doctorate or professional degree. This issue is something I take really close to heart being a first-generation Latino college graduate in my family, I find this issue so important that I want to pursue a career in trying to narrow the gap for students that are Chicanx and Latinx.
Carlos Ayala, the dean of the School of Education, did a short presentation on the efforts that Sonoma State University is doing in creating more Latinx and Chicanx educators. The university recently acquired a 2.75 million-dollar grant for the PUERTA program. Preparing Under-Represented Educators to Realize their Teaching Ambitions, a program aimed at getting more Latinx & Chicanx as K-12 educators. In my undergraduate career, I attended Sonoma State University and currently work there now as an Administrative Coordinator. I am very passionate about getting more students of color into education and graduating with a degree, and this program aims and shrinking the gap for Latinx and Chicanx in education.
The most interesting part of the conference was the panel, where Superintendent Kitamura, President Chong and President Sakaki were posed various questions regarding the North Bay fires that affected our community in October, DACA students, deportations and what they were doing in regards to the topics from their positions and institutions. We as the audience had a chance to ask questions about what each institution were doing in helping Latinx and Chicanx students in Sonoma County. One of the most surprising answers I heard regarding the protection of DACA students came from President Chong of SRJC, mentioning that he will protect any and all his students at SRJC in an event of an ICE raid or cooperation with ICE and said he was prepared to go to jail if it came down to it.
It made me happy that I could be a member of such a inspiring and vibrant community; caring for the wellbeing of one another. It reminded me why I am interested in working in higher education and helping close the gap for Latinx and Chicanx in school.