Every year in Mayfair over 200 children enter Kindergarten. For the vast majority of these children they enter Kindergarten without the basic skills to succeed in school. In 2011, a full 86% of the children entering kindergarten at César Chávez Elementary School did so unprepared to succeed in school. Even with steady and sizeable gains over the past few years, today only 46% of the third grade students at César Chávez School are proficient readers. So while school reformers have made considerable progress in recent years, deep lasting change remains elusive and the children of Mayfair pay the price.
In the face of the failure of the educational system to educate our children for life in the 21st century, we turn to the Mayfair community itself to be the catalyst for transformation. We begin our work in the homes of the 400+ Mayfair families with children ages 0-8. Our team of Promotores works with families in their homes as personal mentors to support families to take action to prepare their children to succeed in school. Our work in families’ homes requires trust; the work is informal, often happening over coffee and with neighbors and other families. This work begins with the presumption that people’s own personal experiences are the means for developing a critical analysis of the larger world in which we live. This popular education approach to our work is an inherently political activity that motivates direct action.
We also provide traditional classroom instruction using best practice curricula. These classes provide deeper instruction and a chance for people to learn in larger groups settings. Somos Mayfair’s commitment to popular education carries over into this classroom instruction; whenever necessary we adapt curricula so that it can be used by Somos’ lay educators: our Promotores. In doing so we fight the professionalization trend in the nonprofit sector that allows only licensed professionals to deliver programs. And we do so while preserving the integrity of the curricula. Thus our community receives the best of popular education and best practice curricula.
A final critical element of our work is to foster active participation of parents in the life of Cesar Chavez School. So we assign some of our Promotores at Cesar Chavez School. Those Promotores recruit parents to volunteer to run a family resource center on campus, to help teachers in the classroom, to read to and with children, to organize school events, and to advise Principal Sanchez and his teachers. And as our families become more adept at fostering school success at home and on campus, our community also builds power to influence decisions on campus and at the District offices.