Spotlight on Latinx Achievement: Adriana Cerrillo

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself / background and your role at the Minneapolis School Board?

I am a mother, a grandmother, a business owner (consultant) and a good troublemaker for social justice.  I was fifteen when we moved to Brownsville, Texas, from Reynosa, a border city in Tamaulipas, Mexico.  I lived in Florida for 20 years where I had my two daughters and got married. 

In 2007, I founded the Juliana Mateo Foundation for Disabled Farmworkers to save the life of a young, undocumented, mother in need of life-saving medical services.  I understood that politics is an avenue for long term change and I got heavily involved mainly because Comprehensive Immigration Reform is a personal issue to me. I became a delegate and volunteer for Joe Biden’s campaign for president.  A family friend, Luis Navarro, was Senator Biden Chief of Staff and became his campaign manager when Biden ran for president.  The ground work paid off when Obama was elected for the presidency. I had the opportunity to attend community educational briefings at the White House and was able to directly advocate with administration leaders like Katherine L Archuleta for DACA.  I attended the first and second inauguration for the Obama administration and attended the Neighborhood Ball.  This was an incredible experience that I will never forget!   

Due to our family’s mixed immigration status, for the last two years, I have been the guardian of my 12 year old nephew. He is a student at Emerson Elementary in District 4.  I saw how many families of color are not being included and empowered in our schools. I became involved in the Site Council and PTA.  I worked to engage and empower families to feel comfortable participating in their children’s education, and for our voices as parents to be heard. I have been building capacity at our school and for the first time our new PTA president is a Mexican mother. I have consistently supported her to take on this position and throughout her transition to her role as president. As a community, we must empower one another to overcome systematic oppression!  

In January I will be the next Director of District 4 for the Minneapolis Board of Education, which means I’ll represent the neighborhoods of Whittier, Downtown, Bryn Mawr, Kenwood and East Isles. I’ll be working with the other eight board members on determining funding distribution, hiring personnel, and educational goals for our school system and ensuring the Superintendent is meeting job expectations. 

2. What were the main points of your election platform and what are 2-3 needs that must be priorities for the district to address?

– Fund education fairly. Schools should be funded based on need, not based on the property values of the surrounding neighborhoods.  We must ensure funding to provide equitable resources for all children. 

– An updated curriculum. Classes that emphasize learning about different cultures and perspectives. We need more language classes.

– Solutions not suspensions. Suspension has proved to be ineffective in curbing bad behavior while disproportionately impacting our students of color. Suspension is lowering the graduation rate for working class children of color. Instead, hire more counselors, bring more therapists and social workers who are trained and experienced in addressing the behavioral issues students are having. This network of support will work with students and families to understand the root causes of a students’ misbehavior and create a personal plan of success. To create a sustainable solution for our students, rather than suspension. 

3. What do you think MPS should do to ensure that our Latine students and families receive a quality education?

We need more translators and material translations.  Many parents aren’t involved in their child’s education due to a language barrier.  We must allocate funding to continue translation for all School Board meetings and related matters. Our families and students must be treated with dignity.  

4. Why do you think LatinoLEAD is important?

We’re all in this together. It’s important for us to recognize that when one of us succeeds, we all succeed. I’m grateful for organizations that allow people of color to network, which facilitates that success. I was part of the first meetings when a group of good hearted individuals had the vision to create LatinoLEAD.  I am so excited to see how it has grown and has youth leading the vision. ¡La lucha sige!