Opportunity, access and luck: that’s my story. Thanks to a supportive family, strong educators, access to a few high-quality opportunities—and sheer luck—I got out of a Southwest Denver neighborhood (Westwood) that had been on a steady decline since before I was born. By the time I got to Tulane University in New Orleans, I realized that a lot of my peers had opportunity and access—but they also had privilege. They didn’t need the luck. While some of my teachers had been exceptional and I had a few “out of the blue” opportunities, these new friends of mine had attended elementary schools where nearly all (not just a lucky few) were on grade-level each year, middle schools where talented and gifted programs were the norm, and high schools with access to college courses.
No student should depend on luck. As an organizer and policy expert, I work with communities fighting to provide high-quality school options to their students, and even then I recognize that they’re
still relying on luck. They’re working to increase opportunities and access to high-quality schools and educators, but they’re also hoping that their students will get lucky and find a path out. A student navigating poverty shouldn’t have to hope for a few strong educators to grace their lives, the English-learner shouldn’t have to fight for access to a quality language program, and young Latinos and African-American students shouldn’t have to leave their neighborhoods and culture behind to find a high school with a college-going ethos. So, I work with civil rights and advocacy groups to take luck and privilege out of the equation. Those should have no place in our education system. Together, we fight to ensure English-learners, students navigating poverty and students of color
all have strong educators and quality school options that hold high expectations for them. Students need to be surrounded by adults who believe in their potential to achieve and do what’s necessary to get them there. We need equitable access to opportunity and a belief system that says
all kids can—not luck.
Iris Maria Chávez is an education advocate and communications consultant, currently working with national and Oregon focused organizations to advance equity by supporting the creation of just policies, engaging with communities and supporting communications efforts that better communities in Oregon and across the nation. Iris Maria has lived in Portland for just over a year and came to the ...