By David Nungaray
There are many firsts that are clear in my mind when I think about our beautiful city of San Antonio. The first time I flew into the city from California and saw the green trees of the Olmos Basin out of the airplane window. The first time I met my fellow teachers in Teach For America-San Antonio at Trinity University, and the first time I greeted my remarkable students for their first day of fourth grade. I also recall the first time I saw the Riverwalk, the Pearl area, the Hays Street Bridge, the Esperanza Center, the Alamo, the beautiful murals of the West Side, the gay pride flags along N. Main, and so many other incredible parts of our city.
Clear in my mind is also the kick off SA2020 meeting that happened in the fall of 2010. I went to the SAWS building and I met with people from all across the city coming together to envision what our city could be one day. I had moved to San Antonio less than 6 months before I went to this meeting, yet I was already feeling what I still feel so strongly today: San Antonio is home. I was inspired by the conversations happening, by the direction our city was taking, and by the leadership that was spurred through this process. I was also struck by the recurring theme of education as a focus area, and the role that I could play in this work.
Over the course of the past three years, I have had the privilege to serve in the heart of San Antonio, first as an elementary school teacher and now as a coach for first- and second-year teachers in our program. I have chosen to stay in San Antonio after my two-year Teach For America commitment because I believe in our community and I have fallen in love with the people who live here. I see the unbound potential that exists in our city and am excited to see it realized.
This past month, I attended a Latino Summit with Teach For America where I was exposed to the work of UT Austin professor, Victor B. Sáenz. Dr. Sáenz spoke of the Latino education crisis, and the challenges our Latino boys face in the education system. All of you have to do is Google “Latino male,” and it becomes very clear that statistically, the deck is stacked against our boys. As a first generation Latino college graduate and son of Mexican immigrants, I could not help but initially feel disillusioned and disheartened. Educators and the Latin@ community have made great strides in creating educational opportunity for our students, yet we have much work left to do.
As I heard Dr. Sáenz, I immediately thought of my children, especially my Latino boys who I had taught and the ones I see in the schools I serve. Our Latino boys deserve better than what demographics predict for them. In order for our city to truly reach its SA2020 education goal of orchestrating “one of the greatest turnarounds in education in the United States,” we must continue to help our boys – and, truly, all of our students – realize their full potential. By unifying around this goal, we can ensure our Latino boys and all of our children will have the opportunities they deserve.
Together, we must write a new narrative for Latino boys and give them the tools they need to write their own narrative as well. This will be a narrative that celebrates the gifts and talents of our students, and one that tells the success of Latino men in our communities like the ones I look up to myself— Mike Villarreal, Julian and Joaquin Castro, Jose Villarreal, Henry Cisneros, Michael Soto, all of my Latino students, their hard-working dads, and so many others in our community. Too often we focus solely on the challenges that exist, and by harnessing the assets of our community we can demonstrate our resiliency and honor the great shoulders that we stand on. We must always keep our hope in the face of despair.
As we embark on the journey towards our shared SA2020 vision, the time to act is now. We can all do something to help expand opportunity for our Latino boys. We can mentor students through so many amazing programs in our city: Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Communities in Schools, San Antonio Youth Literacy, and CASA, just to name a few. Together, we can make a positive difference and be a part of the solution, just like we came together to envision our city by 2020. Si se puede! I have full confidence that together we can make it happen.