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Point of View: Use school choice to live your family's values

Catalina Beltran
Catalina Beltran

As a child growing up in Colombia, attending a private bilingual school was a great privilege and a blessing that I never took for granted. Being bilingual has opened many doors and provided opportunities beyond what I could have ever imagined. From early on, I understood the benefit of knowing more than one language and knew that once I started my own family, I would do everything I could to give my own child the gift of bilingualism. This “School Choice Week” (Jan. 24-30), I’m grateful I have found a choice that supports my goal of helping my child be bilingual, and I hope other families find school choices that support their goals.

We have found a learning environment that matches our family’s goals at Heritage Academy, a blended learning program at Epic Charter Schools. All my son’s teachers are bilingual in English and Spanish, multiculturally aware and certified in special education. I love that the school promotes diversity and inclusion by celebrating the uniqueness of the children. They embrace their differences and similarities with others, rather than hiding them.

As immigrant parents from Ecuador and Colombia, my husband and I want our son to be proud of his own tricultural identity, to love his roots and embrace his diversity while welcoming and celebrating other cultures. At home, I have been teaching him to read and write in English and Spanish. Besides speaking Spanish at home, my child now has an opportunity to practice it in a community, with his teacher and classmates, who are proud of speaking different languages.

All families have different goals and needs to consider in finding the “best” school for them. Besides an inclusive, bilingual environment, we also wanted a 100% virtual program this year due to COVID-19. Our school choice offered that, and it provides laptops and internet options to students who need them, so they have consistent access to virtual learning. Whatever their school choice, parents/primary care givers should be invited to work closely with schools to support their children’s education. At Heritage, we are invited to help develop an inclusive, bilingual curriculum that teaches our children how to respond with kindness and empathy when presented to unique situations not familiar to them.

During this School Choice Week, I am grateful for the choice of individualized, inclusive, online education. I know that choosing a school is not an easy task, and it is important to remember that all children have different talents, gifts, interests and ways of learning, and that school is like their second home.

If I were to give a piece of advice to other families, it would be to choose a school that aligns with their child and family’s values and goals, a program that encourages growth, happiness and helps children achieve their best selves, not only academically but also to develop a deep love and respect for themselves and others.

Beltran lives in Oklahoma City.