Dr. Ochoa O'Leary's latest op-ed

Anna Ochoa-O'Leary: Opening the door to educational opportunity



Without a doubt, it has been a rough end-of-summer, with multiple natural disasters and scores of lives lost and the long road to recovery looming. Some would say it’s been a rough year, with politics run amok here and on the world stage.

Often lost in the chaos are the uplifting stories to restore our commitment to each other and a better future.

On Sept. 25, I moderated a panel organized by the UA James E. Rogers College of Law and the College of Social and Behavioral Science that addressed anxieties over the cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — commonly known as DACA — and the uncertain future for many.


The DACA students on this panel were knowledgeable and inspiring. A compassionate audience expressed willingness to engage collectively to find solutions. To be sure, many will argue that such students do not have a right to stay in this country.

The narrative is well worn: “They flaunt U.S. laws.” However, such views have not stopped others from addressing injustices inscribed in this thinking. At some point in history, civic leaders and lawmakers stepped forward to provide opportunities for children of immigrants to contribute to their communities, state and nation: Plyler v. Doe (1982) made it possible for immigrant children to attend public elementary school, and Lau v. Nichols (1974) made bilingual education for language minority students possible.

On Sept. 30, another inspirational event: The ¡Adelante! Parent and Youth Leadership Conference was made possible through the partnership of TUSD’s Mexican American Student

Services, the Ana and Adalberto Guerrero Student Center at the University of Arizona and my Department of Mexican American

Studies at the University of Arizona.

The student center is named after Adalberto Guerrero, one of the pioneers in efforts to guarantee equitable education for language minority students in the United States.

The Adelante event was held, quite appropriately, at the Cesar E. Chavez Building on the university campus, which was named after the famed civil rights and labor rights leader who co-founded the United Farm Workers. The legacy of people committed to the education of our Mexican American Communities in this way continues and was on display that day.


Many of the civic and academic leaders present at the event came up through the ranks of Tucson’s public school system, children of braceros, many having entered higher education through our own Pima Community College and into programs at the university, alumni from the Mexican American Studies programs at TUSD and the undergraduate and graduate programs of the Department of Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona, current graduate students and undergraduate volunteers — out of the many, became one.

One team dedicated to bringing 200 local students and parents to campus for a day’s worth of inspiring stories, workshops, a resource fair, spiritual observance, dance, sample lectures and presentations.

The message that resonated at the event is as old as when ethnic studies curricula were first introduced into schools and institutions of higher learning 40 years ago: Amid the chaos we should not lose sight of the fact that existing spaces of learning are spaces shared with a past, a present, and a future, and immigrant and Mexican-American families laboring on this side of the border have been and will continue to be part of it.

It is incumbent on those of us at the end of the educational pathway to prop the door open for those who have yet to enter our educational institutions, to invite them in, and even serve to nudge those who are uncertain about what the future holds.

Daily Star Article


Published Date: 

10/05/2017 - 09:20

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