Apr 22, 2011

A Break For One Is Not Enough...We Need The Force Of Many

Mialisa Bonta comes from a family of Puerto Rican activists in New York. She has worked for nearly twenty years on behalf of youth in education reform, community building, and philanthropy. She is an alumnus of Yale College (B.A.), Harvard School of Education (Ed.M) and Yale Law School (J.D.). Mialisa currently lives in Alameda, CA where her family, husband Rob and three children Reina, Iliana, and Andres are named plaintiffs in the Robles Wong v. CA lawsuit brought forth by a broad coalition of students, parents, school districts, and education organizations challenging the state of California to fulfill its constitutional obligation to adequately educate its students by fixing its broken school finance system.
My name is Mialisa Bonta. I am responsible for establishing strategic partnerships for StudentsFirst, initially focused on engaging other education reform organizations to build upon the movement to Save Great Teachers.
I joined StudentsFirst because I believe that we need fundamental change in our educational system and it will require the collective activism of a nation to ensure students are held at the center of our policy decisions and have access to great teachers and schools that put them on a path to success.
As an elementary school student in the Bronx, one teacher intervened for me, helping me to avoid going to a middle school known to be a dead-end for learning. It was life-changing, a personal lottery of sorts, as I was able to go to a great secondary school, then on to college, graduate school in education and eventually law school. I was a good student, but no more special than the other students in my grade. I was 1 out of over 100 students. The others, well...
The personal experience of the child became the political challenge for the adult. I have worked with students, teachers, parents and district leaders throughout my career to change the odds that I faced, but that are still so unfortunately prevalent for so many of our students today. My experiences with different organizations, whether community-based youth programs like LEAP in Connecticut, national pathway-to-college groups like Breakthrough Collaborative, or with the Stupski Foundation, focused on district-reform, have all taught me a critical lesson. One group, acting independently, cannot achieve the transformative educational changes that we all seek for our children.
Over the next several months, StudentsFirst will actively pursue partnerships with a range of education reform organizations, civil rights groups, researchers, education associations, and district, local and state leaders. We will strive to transform our independent actions into a collective force spurring our leaders to be courageous while reminding the nation that education should not be a thing left to chance, but rather is something we all hold as fundamental right.

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