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Ingris Moran: Education Reform and the Virginia Dream

By Mike Signer | May 5, 2011 | No Comments

When Ingris Moran talks about the American Dream, it isn’t hokey and it isn’t a cliche.  It’s something she deeply believes in, and she believes it’s happening to her here in Virginia.  So call it the Virginia Dream — and it comes from both struggle and the belief in making a difference.

Ingris is a second-year student at Northern Virginia Community College and a committed grassroots activist on educational reform. Her parents are her inspiration. They came to the United States from El Salvador, seeking a better life.  Her father, who can’t read, washes dishes in a restaurant; her mother works retail and has another part-time job.  They both are passionate about Ingris’ future and her education, and she, in turn, works for change on their behalf.

She has recently been spearheading a successful grassroots movement that has pushed for a Personalized Education Action Plan (PEAP) for students in Alexandria public schools.  A PEAP provides a tailored, individual education strategy for each student, involving both their parents or guardians and advisors at their schools.  A PEAP could prove particularly beneficial to at-risk students who may not have the same support structure as more well-off students.

Groups like Tenants and Workers United are pressing for these reforms because, in their words:

We believe that the adoption of this proposal would lead to many more students receiving the opportunity to fulfill their potential. By pairing each student with an academic advisor, it would enable each student to have at least one meaningful relationship with an adult in the school, which we believe, and students believe, is critical to success. Also, by involving parents and guardians in every step of the PEAP process, our proposal would increase the level of parental involvement in the district. Finally, by ensuring that every student receives the information, support, and opportunities they need to achieve their academic and professional goals, the adoption of this proposal would be an important step in addressing the persistent achievement and opportunity gaps within the district, and would help create the school system that the people of Alexandria want and deserve.

But good policy doesn’t just happen; it depends on committed grassroots activists.  As TWU says, “[W]ebelieve that with the strength of our parent and youth advocates, we will succeed. These individuals refuse to see any more students pushed out of school by policies and practices that fail to recognize their capacity and potential. They demand justice, which in Alexandria means nothing more than receiving what their classmates already get.”

And here’s where Ingris comes in.  Last year, she launched a door-knocking campaign to support the PEAP program, converting people at doors into advocates for public policy. Why did she get involved in this movement?  In her words, “Getting people together is the way.”  She explains:  “There are two ways to get power: money or people.  I tell my experience because if I can do it, anyone can do it.”

It all goes back to her parents and commitment to the great American idea.  “They came her for the American Dream.  With everything I do, I honor their struggle.”

What’s her next step?  She plans to transfer to a four-year college.  She has an internship lined up with Liberty’s Promise, a nonprofit working on immigrant youth issues.  And she has a bright Virginia future ahead of her.

And it all begins with a Virginia Dream — of a New Dominion where equality of opportunity, and the right to make the most of your God-given potential, is the north star.

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