“Hungry for Change”: Spotlight on NILSL Training in Nashville

By Cayla Conway, ESSA Stakeholder Outreach Coordinator, UnidosUS

2017 NILSL Fellow Graduates

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room,” John Monteleone, National Institute for Latino School Leaders (NILSL) fellow, shared with his nine co-fellows during their final training module in Nashville in late September. These were the very words John’s relative shared with him after his first NILSL training module back in 2015. At that time, John was questioning why he had been accepted into the group and what he would be able to add. He felt like an imposter, overwhelmed and intimidated and yet, little to his knowledge, many of his co-fellows identified with these feelings too. However, two years and seven training modules later, you would not believe that John, nor any of these leaders, ever experienced such insecurities.

NILSL modules are held throughout the fellowship in different locations across the United States. This particular cohort traveled to New York City, Dallas, Los Angeles, Denver, Atlanta, Washington, DC, and Nashville to receive trainings in leadership, communications, advocacy, and education policy. In other words, fellows learn ways to advocate for Latino students and English learners, receive updates on federal and state education policy, learn how to maximize outreach strategies using both traditional and social media to effectively communicate local and national education issues to diverse audiences, and network with fellow leaders in education. Each training is designed to prepare fellows to become stronger, better-equipped leaders and advocates for Latino students and English learners in their respective districts and states.

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Providing English Language Learners the Support Needed to Succeed

By Para Los Niños

Keeping in step with our integrated approach to educating the whole child—emotional, social, and psychological needs—within the context of their family history and needs, Para Los Niños is building a foundation for engaged learning and academic success for our English Language Learner (ELL) students. These students face the unique challenge of becoming proficient in English while also learning grade-level content in English.

Our charter schools offer students a rigorous academic experience, but we know students have the best opportunity to succeed when their families are valued for the assets they bring to our schools. By creating a culturally and linguistically aware community, Para Los Niños puts families at the center of their child’s education.

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ESSA and the Progress of Education Policy toward Parental Engagement


Parent engagement is a critical component of student success, especially in large urban areas. Schools and local districts are increasingly investing in connecting with parents and families in ways that recognize their cultural backgrounds and unique needs.

In particular, educators are working to connect families to critical resources such as medical care, legal aid, housing support, financial literacy, language development, and access to higher education opportunities. This work allows educators to deepen the value of schools as institutions within all communities, especially those communities that have been historically marginalized.

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A Call for Participative Budgeting in Education

By Jesus Sanchez and Marianela Rodriguez of Gente Organizada

While many families in Pomona, Calif. have been trying to take advantage of the last days of summer break, parent leaders from Padres Unidos de Pomona, a community group made up of parents who advocate on behalf of their children in the Pomona Unified School District (PUSD), attended a presentation on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal education policy that replaced the No Child Left Behind Act.

As members of Padres Unidos de Pomona entered the Center for the Arts in downtown Pomona for the presentation, they were greeted by organizers from Gente Organizada (Gente), a Pomona-based nonprofit that facilitates community action by connecting individuals to the knowledge and tools they need to become effective agents of change. Gente Organizada partnered with Padres Unidos de Pomona and UnidosUS (formerly NCLR) for a presentation where parents could learn about the State of California’s progress on finalizing a plan to comply with ESSA, which will affect their children’s education.

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How Two Ohioans Found Common Ground in Their Passion for Education

By Cayla Conway, ESSA Stakeholder Outreach Coordinator, Education, NCLR

NILSL Fellows Jesús Sanchez (left) and John Montoleone (right)

John Monteleone and Jesús Sanchez are members of the same gym in Lorain, Ohio. Besides their shared affinity for physical fitness, you might not think they have much else in common. Jesús is originally from Puerto Rico, while John is a native Ohioan. Jesús is an environmentalist, having studied biology, wildlife management, and plant ecology and physiology, while John’s roots have been firmly planted in Ohio’s public schools; where he ascended from teacher, to principal, to assistant superintendent. It was when they finally struck up a conversation that they realized they had a lot in common. They share a deep history with Lorain City Schools – both attended during their childhoods, and Jesús’s mother was a teacher, principal, and deputy superintendent there. The two also found that they are both passionate about education and strong advocates for the youth in their communities. In the fall of 2015, they both learned that they would be participating in the two-year National Institute for Latino School Leaders (NILSL) fellowship.

Currently, John is the Assistant Superintendent for Oberlin City Schools and Jesús is the Education Director at Cuyahoga Environmental Education Center in Ohio. Both are actively participating in NCLR’s NILSL fellowship; a program established in 2011 to bridge the divide between school practitioners and education policymakers. One of NILSL’s requirements tasks fellows with leading an advocacy project or policy-related activity related to the new education law, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), in their home state. A NILSL fellowship, though only lasting up to two years, is intended to provide the connections and training needed to create diverse education leaders for life. In the cases of John and Jesús, it appears to be doing just that.

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