Empowering New Americans
We were delighted to bring Angelo Cabrera, founder of the Mexican American Student Alliance, and Antelma Espejel, community mentor to Bronx parents, to The Center for Family Life in the heart of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, one of New York City’s most densely populated immigrant communities. The “Navigating the School System for Immigrant Families: Pre-k to College” Care Cafe—which was presented in English, Spanish and Mandarin—attracted people who recently immigrated from China and Central America.
Cabrera and Espejel shared their personal stories of struggle and the process of learning how to navigate in America for themselves. Espejel moved her children successfully from elementary schools to high schools that served them best, and Cabrera reached his personal goals in higher education. They both shared practical advice for fulfilling goals and moving forward in a system that often seems to exclude the immigrant voice. Espejel answered questions about finding the best high school, school transportation, and services for students with special needs. Cabrera focused on higher education and staying positive amidst the uncertainty of DACA. He urged parents of young children to let go of intimidation:
“Get involved, know your children’s teachers, show up. With strong dreams and hard work, you can do anything, and so can your kids.”
At the end of the evening participants were able to speak to the presenters one-on-one. All attendees took home with them a large packet of community and DOE resources, as well as a message of hope and empowerment.
– Michelle Bialeck has been working with at-risk youth and immigrant families for well over a decade and is looking forward to attaining a PhD in social welfar