Through this role, I’ve listened to powerful words and stories from parent leaders, learned about the rich history of DC and her influence on our nation, and walked the culture-filled streets of every ward.
It is through my time at PAVE that I’ve grown so much and have had the opportunity to love and be inspired by so many. My love for DC and her people will forever be strong. I will carry all of this with me into my next adventure as I close out my time in DC and my role at PAVE.
Writing this piece is not easy. But, there is no better way to end my time as an organizer than to reflect on what this role has meant to me.
I am a first-generation daughter of a full-time working, immigrant, single mom. My mom’s fighting spirit and open heart are elements I brought with me to work every day at PAVE. For as long as I can remember she instilled in me the deep significance of education. To this day she reminds me: “Nothing is more important than education, because education is something no one can ever take away from you.”
Through her fight for a better life for our family in this country, my mom ensured that I had access to the best education opportunities. I’ve been so proud to have the privilege of continuing that fight alongside so many other parent leaders like my mom.
I see this fighting spirit in every room where PAVE parent leaders are present; from our PLE Board meetings to our tabling events to our parties. The spirit is everywhere. And that’s because parent leaders know they are the ones with the power – their conversations lead to real change. And that magic made my role worth every moment.
What I also appreciated in my role is how much of my true self I could bring to it. This is particularly true through my language and my Mexican American heritage. Growing up, English was not my first language, but once I became fluent it was the dominant language I used outside my home.
Coming to PAVE and being told that my language was appreciated, even more so, celebrated, was so validating. I can think of so many times my mother and I were silenced or shamed in spaces for expressing ourselves in our language.
Being able to speak Spanish, and English (and sometimes the occasional “Spanglish”) was a highlight of my workday. Whenever I use my native tongue with parent leaders or community partners, I truly felt that my culture, my people, and myself mattered.
Finally, this role taught me the importance of authenticity. This past year tried to push so many of us to our breaking points. There were times when waking up was really hard because of every way my heart was breaking.
I am so grateful for the relationships with PAVE parent leaders and the PAVE team that I held and held me. Authentically showing up as myself, while grieving the loss of a loved one, taking on a new quarantine hobby, and taking on the DC education system with you all, helped me pour into our community because of the way you all poured into me.
We never say goodbye in my family. Because goodbye feels like you’re saying goodbye forever.
Instead, I say to those reading, “nos vemos,” which means “see you later.”
Because while I may not physically cross paths with you or beautiful DC soon, the special place in my heart you all occupy will always be with me.
By Kim Gutierrez, former PAVE Senior Organizer