Raquel Garay is a member of Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Successful Transitions, which is based in Medford, Oregon.
Q. How long have you been involved in the migrant parent program in southern Oregon?
A. As a parent, I think maybe five years. But I wasn’t as involved to begin with. I got more involved about three years ago.
Q. What motivated you to get more involved?
A. At first I would always just attend the meetings. Then I was selected by the parent advisory council to represent them, because they needed someone who could travel to conferences and trainings. Once I started getting more involved, I realized there was a high need for migrant parent leadership, and especially bilingual migrant parent leadership. I realized we do have rights and a stake in our kids’ education. Parents need to know this and get educated. I had something to say, and, being bilingual, I could give that extra service.
Q. How have you changed through your involvement with this program?
A. Before I had a blurry vision of what we were being served and what we deserved. Through meetings, trainings and conferences, I gained tools for advocating, not only for my kids, but for other kids and parents as well. I learned there is no right or wrong answer, and it doesn’t hurt to speak up or ask. I’ve learned to be less shy and to model for other parents and accompany them when they feel uncomfortable. There’s no one in front of me who has done it, so I have to be a leader in a way of trying. Our community is so unequal, so it is hard to expose yourself. But I’ve made connections, and I’ve learned who and how to ask for help.
Q. What leadership positions do you currently hold?
A. I’m the vice president for the Eagle Point School District Parent Advisory Council (PAC). I’m also on the budget committee for the school district, and I represent southern Oregon, Lane County and Klamath Falls on Oregon’s state parent advisory council (SPAC). We meet four times a year in Salem. And I’m on the Southern Oregon University parent committee for the Latinx community.
Q. Have you seen southern Oregon or Eagle Point School District change because of the migrant parent programs’ efforts?
A. A little bit. Eagle Point is tough to change. I urged people to vote for a person who will acknowledge our community, because our community doesn’t function the same way as other parents. And she won! The woman I urged people to vote for won. Finally, there’s someone elected advocating for us. She encourages parents to come to meetings and tells people about the work I’m doing. She’s always asking for my input. She understands all the kids in our classrooms aren’t the same.
Q. What do you hope to happen in the future through this work?
A. I want the district to follow through on concerns voiced by the parents. They listen, but then they don’t do anything with those concerns. We’re losing parent representation in the program because no changes are happening. If one thing changed, that would be a big deal.
Q. What’s something you love to do in your free time?
A. My kids play soccer. My passion is traveling with them and watching them play. Actually I’m part of that committee too. I like to sit and watch them play and yell. If I’m tired, that moment is relaxing.