Arizona Education Association

Summer 2016

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24 ADVOCATE | SUMMER 2016 E very day educators take extraordi- nary action to show leadership on social justice issues in and out of the classroom. Members of the National Educa- tion Association have a long and proud history of social justice activism. Education advocacy and social justice advocacy go hand in hand, as an increasingly diverse kaleidoscope of students and educators must feel welcome in our public schools. The 2016 social justice activist award is presented to the exceptional effort that demonstrates the ability to lead, organize and engage educators, parents, and the community to advocate on social justice issues that impact the lives of students, fellow educators and the communities they serve. AEA is proud to congratulate Phoenix Union High School Classified Education Association member Hugo Arreola on being named one of the five finalists for this prestigious NEA award. Hugo Arreola is a technology educator in Phoenix, Arizona and a Dreamer. He uses the insights gained from his experience to reach out to and advocate for Dreamers and their families to ensure that they have the information they need to apply for Deferred Action and to achieve the American Dream. NEA caught up with Hugo to talk about his work advocating for high school students from underserved communities and we got his views on activism and the social justice movement. An excerpt from their conversation is below. NEA: What spurred you to become an educator activist? HUGO: Growing up as an undocumented student in Arizona, I experienced firsthand many of the obstacles undocumented students face. During high school, I received college scholarships that were revoked after graduation because of my legal status. NEA: Why should social justice activism matter to educators? HUGO: Educators can inspire and promote positive local and global perspectives. Students can feel the impact of social injustice, particularly, students from inner- city public education systems. More and more young adults are becoming aware of the inequalities set in our society. To me, social justice is a path to help our students understand their own strength and allow them to grow and gain confidence in their ability to create change. As educators, we should create an environment of acceptance that allows our students to grow. NEA: What role do students play in movement building? HUGO: If educational institutions are the centers for free-flowing dialogue about revolutionary ideas then students are leading the change. I was part of the Manzana Dream Team, a group of undocumented college students that organized political campaigns. We ran three legislative campaigns and two governing board campaigns in 2012 with high success. The new generation is molding the future; students are becoming the leaders in movement building. NEA: What is the role personal stories play in SJ activism? HUGO: It is easier to turn a blind eye if you do not know who is affected by the oppressive policies that have been in place in our social, political and financial systems. Personal stories create an impact because they put a human face on the issues. During my presentation for the 2015 AEA's Summer Institute, I presented on the subject of undocumented students in the classroom. I presented statistics on immigrants, the percentage of graduates who are immigrants and resources for teachers, but when I told my story and brought in educators who are Deferred Action recipients to share their struggles to achieve their degree and overcome the obstacles, that is when I saw the people in that room really make the connection to the issue. NEA: What are the most important elements of movement building to you? HUGO: During my time in campaign organizing and community outreach, I learned what can end a movement and what can project it forward. The most important elements in organizing are power mapping, organizing in the community, and transparency. AEA Member Named One of Five Finalists for NEA Social Justice Activist Award

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