It’s difficult to get a complete picture of Marcela Garcini, director of Project CREO (Council for Reform and Educational Options), without looking at her as a mother, a fighter, and a leader in the school choice movement. She has seen both the need for, and the benefits of, school choice firsthand as an educator and a parent.
Garcini was born and reared in Mexico, where she graduated from the University of Mexico Valley and went to work for the government. In 1995, Garcini moved to the United States. When she began working in the Dallas Independent School District, she saw the differences in the educational systems between her native and adopted homelands.
“The educational system is very different in the United States,” Garcini says, pointing out that parents in Mexico don’t attend many meetings or interact with a school board. “When immigrants come to this country, it’s very hard to understand all of the extras,” she says.
Teachers’ Expectations Low
As an educator, Garcini saw a great number of immigrant students, as well as American-born students who had spent time in Mexico or who spoke Spanish as a first language. She saw “teachers who didn’t care and had low expectations” for these students, and “it opened my eyes from a professional point of view,” she says.
Despite it having been what she calls “a very disturbing point in my life,” Garcini made the most of her teaching years by forming lasting relationships with her students. She says the ninth- and tenth-graders she taught from 1999 to 2001 are still an important part of her life, even now as they graduate, go on to college, and get married. She says many people don’t understand “how important it is to be a good teacher, how much influence you can have on students.”
Education reform became even more important to Garcini when her oldest son was ready to start school. She is the mother of two sons, the oldest diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Because of the diagnosis, Garcini was worried about her son attending the public school in their district, which had more than 1,000 students. “I knew he wasn’t going to receive the structure we were looking for” at that school, she says.
Help came in the form of a privately funded voucher that allowed her son to attend a private school. She calls the private school “the best place for my son,” and she is thankful for the voucher. “If you don’t have choices, your children can fail,” she says.
Hispanics Poorly Informed
Garcini has been director of Project CREO since 2003. The group is an initiative of Hispanic CREO, and its mission is to inform parents of their rights under No Child Left Behind. “When we talked to Hispanic parents, they had no idea about No Child Left Behind. We can see a barrier of communication,” Garcini says, noting some parents don’t even understand the concept, while others are being left out by public schools that aren’t “doing their job. Public schools should inform them,” she says.
She is passionate about helping other parents because “if you want a good education for your child, you need to become involved,” she says. “There’s not one parent who doesn’t want to see their children succeed.” To ensure that more children succeed, Garcini is helping parents learn about their choices and options.
Garcini considers herself a “fighter for school reform,” and she vows to continue the fight, no matter how long it takes. She is optimistic that school reform is working and more changes are on the way. She says, “every child in America deserves a good education. How can we deny education for children?”
She notes, “little by little, we’re making a difference.” She is encouraged when she sees “a mom who feels better about where her child is,” especially when that mom no longer has to worry about gangs or violence. She is encouraged by her own son’s success and believes “without that [private] school, he would have failed.
“[Project] CREO is working very hard, and it will make a difference in a lot of children’s lives,” she says. “We’re ready to fight whatever comes.”
Sarah Faulkner ([email protected]) is an adjunct fellow with the Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation.