This past December, current and former members of NCLR’s National Institute for Latino School Leaders, or NILSL, convened in Los Angeles to talk about the current state of education and the impact of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The meeting was also an opportunity for current and former fellows to connect and talk about ways to work together. We caught up with one NILSL fellow, Marisol Rerucha of San Diego, to talk about her participation in the fellowship and what it’s meant for her. Below is the first of our semi-regular series in which we profile NILSL members.
NCLR: The December meeting was for NILSL alums and the new cohort of fellows. What were some of the biggest takeaways you left with?
Rerucha: Part of the meeting was getting an update on all of the new ESSA provisions, for getting a legislative update on where we are. What’s really important for me as an administrator is that that’s not something we as administrators are able to keep up with in our daily or even monthly work. Public policy is something I would say the vast majority of school leaders do not get to. We also got the chance to talk about potential policy work. We also spent time getting to know the new cohort.
NCLR: What specific projects did you get to work on during the December meeting?
Rerucha: I actually had a project that NCLR funded. I’m going to be creating a local NILSL for San Diego County school educators. In my work, I focus on the alternative school population. The work is going to be inviting in experts to give a legislative update and we’ll also be using the workshops that NCLR has created. The funding will also be used to take educators up to Sacramento to make recommendations for alternative schools and for ESSA implementation.
NCLR: What are some of the challenges states are facing with respect to developing their implementation plans? How is NILSL helping with that development?
Rerucha: One challenge is the focus on Latino students. We did some consortium policy training in Atlanta a couple of years ago. The southern states knew very little about English language development and how to serve English learner students, and also how to deal with this rapidly growing new population of Latinos. So that’s a huge issue. Access is an issue, access to experts. Through NILSL, we have had access to amazing consultants, experts, speakers, people doing amazing work around English learners. A big piece is the NILSL network, too. For us to have access to one another, being able to connect is really beneficial, understanding what we all bring to the table and then being able to connect.
NCLR: How has being a NILSL fellow changed how you approach your work?
Rerucha: Understanding policy, the understanding how to legislate policy, and the importance, as a practitioner, to getting to our legislators. That’s why I was excited about the grant opportunity. I take any chance I can get that helps me get with my colleagues to talk about changes that need to be made. I think it made it very real and tangible how we as practitioners can impact legislation.
NCLR: For those interested in joining NILSL, what advice do you have?
Rerucha: Only join if you’re going to make the commitment, and if you have true interest in informing policy. I think some people apply because it’s something they can put on their resume, and not because they really want to make that impact. Because it’s additional work, but it’s not “work” if it’s connected to your passion. If you want to have that impact on education on such a bigger level than just your school site or school system. It’s like, check yourself. Check your reasoning; know what you’re getting into.
It changed my life. It changed me as a professional. It changed the way I view the world. It changed my perspective of my personal impact on education. These fellows are impacting thousands of students nationwide. It’s just been a profound experience for me that I’m extremely grateful for.
Throughout the year, NCLR will profile members of the NILSL and feature them here. Visit often to get the latest. You can also find out more about the fellowship on our website.