At League of Education Voters, we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state.
We are pleased to announce our Education Advocate of the Month for February: Brenda Yepez. Read about her advocacy for English Language Learners.
Brenda Yepez is one of the founders of a student group called the Ambassadors of Lakeview Achieving Success (ALAS), which began her advocacy journey. Brenda attended our Tri-Cities Student Legislative Roundtable in December, where students spoke with legislators about their community work, and she testified at the State Board of Education January meeting to ask for additional supports for English Language Learner (ELL) students. In addition to advocating for the Dream Act in Washington D.C., Brenda herself is a DACA student attending the Washington State University Richland campus.
She became involved with League of Education Voters through Ruvine Jiménez, our Tri-Cities community organizer. Brenda recalls, “By the time I met Ruvine, I was a member of the ALAS community group, and I am now in my fifth year with them. I started as a high school student and now I’m in college, so I’m a mentor.” At last month’s State Board of Education meeting, Brenda shared ideas of what she and her peers thought about education, specifically the new 24-credit high school graduation requirement. “Ruvine asked me to talk about my experience and thoughts as a college student, being engaged with ALAS. They’re high schoolers and some are about to graduate,” she says. “I described how I went through high school and what changes I saw.”
Her education began in Mexico, where Brenda lived until 2nd grade. “It was pretty hard because they didn’t have as many resources – I didn’t get the education experience I wanted there,” she recalls. After coming to the United States, it was difficult for Brenda to learn English. “I wasn’t able to speak it or fully write it until 5th grade,” she adds. “I went out of my way to learn it. My older sister and I were the only ones in our family in school at the time. Kids were bullying us, which made it hard to get engaged.”
Middle school was better for Brenda when she became involved in sports. In high school, she served as president of the M.E.Ch.A Club, a Latino student movement that embraces history, education, and culture, and she joined other clubs, as well. Brenda was chosen by the Pasco School District to attend a Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA) conference in Seattle. “It was a great experience,” she says. “I met school directors from all over the state.” Brenda worked hard in senior year to earn scholarships. “It was a pain to take high level courses, apply for scholarships, and have to work an after-school job.” Because of her efforts, Brenda was selected to receive the Principal’s Choice Award.
Now that Brenda is in college, she is vice president of the Dreamers Club and president of the M.E.Ch.A Club at WSU Richland. She also volunteers at La Campesina Radio Station KRCW 96.3 FM in Pasco. “I’m majoring in communications,” she explains. “And I hope to transfer to WSU Pullman in the fall.”
When asked about DACA, Brenda answered that she is anxious about the Congressional negotiations. She is one of the volunteers for United We Dream, and went to Washington, D.C. in November and again in January to take an action. She says, “I’m disappointed in both parties. We’ll see what happens.”
As the second oldest child in a family of eight, Brenda believes that having resources to navigate the system is key to a great education. “It would be great to have a class that focuses on scholarship deadlines like the FAFSA, and knowing what would be helpful to go into college,” she says. “When I actually got into college, I was struggling with how it works, what to do, and where to sign up.” Brenda envisions an education system that provides a roadmap for life after high school.
Brenda appreciates that League of Education Voters reaches out to ask for community opinions. “I like that Ruvine invited a parent to testify at the State Board of Education,” she says. “League of Education Voters didn’t just ask for student opinions – you wanted to hear from everyone.”
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