Ana Ponce’s Hall of Fame Remarks on Breaking the Cycle of Poverty and Ending the Separation of Families
I accept this recognition on behalf of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy and the many people who have contributed to making it the outstanding school system that it is today. Thank you to:
- Our families for trusting us;
- Our students for working hard and enriching our lives;
- Our staff for always believing in our students and their families and for their willingness to go above and beyond;
- Our board members who have a steadfast belief that a rigorous and enriched education can change lives and break the cycle of poverty; and
- Philip Lance, our founder, whose vision for a different kind of community school was born 18 years ago and now lives on across eight campuses, touching the lives of thousands of students, families and alumni every day in the Greater MacArthur Park communities in Los Angeles.
Like the lives of Steven Colin and his family. Steven joined the Camino Nuevo family in 6th grade, the oldest son of Mexican immigrants and first in his family to complete a college degree. His father attended college in Mexico but could not afford to finish and migrated to the United States, giving up on his dream but not on his children’s potential to achieve the American Dream.
I have known Steven for over 10 years; he was the first student from Camino Nuevo to get into Middlebury College, my alma mater, and Bowdoin. He decided to attend Bowdoin. Either way, I was proud of him and of yet another Camino Nuevo student pushing to create a counter narrative of what success looks like for kids like him and kids like me.
Steven invited me, his former principal (Heather MacManus) and the chair of our board (Mark Dalzell) to his graduation in May. We humbly accepted the invitation because, in fact, it was an honor for us to be invited and attend. Not the other way around. We had the privilege to celebrate his graduation alongside his mother and brother. His father was not able to travel at the time to celebrate his dream deferred.
Like Steven, I would not be here today if it were not for those who support and inspire me every day; individuals who took this four-year-old, undocumented Mexican immigrant girl, English learner and who loved and nurtured her to be who I am today.
I thank my family who is represented here today by my brother, Alex (who is my rock, and the person who cares for my son so I don’t miss a beat professionally), my sister Maria (who put me through school, compromising her own education, and who absolutely loves my son), my adopted mom and mentor Noel (who took me in after a high school summer job placement program and taught me the work ethic I live by today) and my son Joaquin (whom I love dearly). Thank you for being here. I love you.
I also thank my mother who is no longer with us for loving me unconditionally, teaching me strength of character and determination. She brought me to this country when I was four years old, for a better life. I know she is proud of me, and from above is pushing me to do more for more children.
I remember crossing the border five different ways and always with her or a loved family member. One time, I spent a night at a detention center with my aunt Socorro. It was an absolutely horrible and humiliating experience. To this day, that 12-14 hour experience haunts me; I have a negative physical reaction when I pass by that detention center as I drive from Los Angeles to San Diego. And this was an experience with a loved one, who comforted me and hugged me.
What we are doing, as a country, in taking away the children of people who are coming here to seek refuge, is unconscionable. It is child abuse, and we have to put a stop to it. We must do more than just say something; we have to do more and we have to vote! Let’s not be bystanders to these atrocities.