Ronnette is a single parent from the Hudson Valley, a mother of 7, and grandmother of four. Her youngest, ages 13 and 9, are still in school. After becoming a parent, Ronnette returned to school to get her associates degree in social services. Now she works as a family service worker for Ulster County Community Action Headstart program in Kingston, where she has been since 2006.
Through her work and her local church, Ronnette has been helping needy children and families in her community for many years. But when she connected with AQE, she learned about the statewide advocacy fight for education equity and funding for public schools. What she learned has helped her better understand some of the experiences her children had going to school: for example, why her older children were provided crayons in class, while her younger children received lists of school supplies for parents to purchase. “As a parent, you do have a voice to stand up for your children… attending school board meetings, advocating for your children when they are suspended, pushing back against local projects that will take money fromeducation,” she says.
This spring when school buildings closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ronnette found herself homeschooling her youngest two children, while simultaneously teaching her Headstart students (who range in age from 6 weeks to 5 years old). In figuring out how to make learning at home engaging for her younger child, she transformed a room in the house into a classroom using items from the dollar store. Each morning, they create a schedule together using a banner that says “on the road to learning.” She says part of what she aims to teach her children is that education is not just a degree, or how well you do in school, but also how to be creative and learn from each other.
Concerned about the challenges of remote learning, lack of resources and racial disparities in the long term impacts on education, Ronnette and a group of local parents met with Kingston City School District superintendent about the districts’ reopening plan. When AQE held education visioning sessions across New York State this summer, Ronnette facilitated the session in the Hudson Valley so we could ensure that parents, students, educators and community members would have a voice in determining what school will look like when it resumes this fall. Then in July, Ronette joined actor activist Cynthia Nixon and Congressional candidate Jamaal Bowman to present the findings of these sessions at a community forum to over 250 parents.
Ronnette is looking forward to seeing the growth of the education justice movement in her own community in Kingston and the Hudson Valley. “The more of us there are, the easier the fight is.”