The Northeast News is proud to announce a new community partnership with Revolución EDucativa (RevED), a Northeast-based education nonprofit, to expand language access to Spanish speakers.
RevED is sponsoring a Spanish-speaking Education Reporter in 2023, with the goal of better informing Northeast’s elementary and high school families.
“Communication is at the root of building community, and I think that being able to communicate with somebody in their own language helps you build trust,” RevED Founder Edgar Palacios said. “It also clarifies information. It builds the ability to be in relationship with others, and I think language access is critical because our community’s incredibly diverse and we have to make sure that, as neighbors, we understand each other and that we figure out ways to make sure that we can support each other.”
Former Northeast News Intern Daisy Garcia-Montoya has been selected for the role, and has already begun translating articles for the Northeast News. She interned for the Northeast News in 2020, briefly stepping in to fill the role of Managing Editor when Elizabeth Orosco had to leave suddenly.
“At the end of the day, we have people who are coming from different countries, different communities, who are doing the best they can to figure out how to survive in our neighborhood,” Palacios said. “One of the kindest and most thoughtful things that we can do is make it easier for folks to engage with us, which means we can learn their language, we can provide the interpreters, or we can provide the resources necessary for neighbors to feel welcome, for neighbors to feel safe, and for neighbors to contribute to the overall vision of the Northeast.”
RevED supported parents who were concerned their schools would close during the Kansas City Public Schools’ Blueprint 2030 master planning process. Parents who had never been engaged before learned how to advocate for themselves and were provided interpreters. Now, RevED is hoping those same parents stay engaged throughout the school year.
Garcia-Montoya experienced firsthand the complexities of school closures, attending McCoy, Mount Washington, and West Rock Creek elementary schools before graduating from Lincoln College Preparatory Academy.
She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Communications with an emphasis in Journalism and Political Science with a Minor in International Studies and Criminal Justice from the University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC), and is now pursuing her master’s in Public Administration with an Urban Policy Focus at UMKC.
“As someone who grew up in a Spanish speaking household, I saw the difficulty my parents faced by not having the ability to fully comprehend information they received from school,” Garcia-Montoya said.
Now, her hope is to be able to help alleviate those barriers, increase engagement and equity among families like hers through the work of journalism.
“Parents are heroes, particularly immigrant parents,” Palacios said. “They have come to this country looking for a better life not for themselves, but for their families. They are willing to face great difficulties and violence and danger and uncertainty in order to provide a semblance of safety and opportunity to their kids.”
Education is the key to opportunity in this country, Palacios believes.
“Our ability to survive and thrive is directly related to our ability to learn, and it’s also related to the quality of education that we receive,” he continued. “Parents have a right to be engaged with schools, to have a right to understand what’s happening. They have a right to understand the curriculum, they have a right to understand the culture. They have a right to understand all these things because all those things contribute to the quality of education their child receives.”
Palacios hopes this partnership will provide parents with additional opportunities to be engaged at many levels with whatever school they choose for their children, and increase communication.
“When parents make a decision to choose a school, like we saw at James Elementary, they’ve invested in that school by sending their kids there,” Palacios said.
They trust schools to serve students well, they trust that the principal is going to do the right thing, they trust that the teachers are going to do the right thing, and they trust that the district is going to do the right thing by their kids, Palacios said, adding that accountability is key.
“We often blame parents or community members or kids because we failed at communicating. Even if we have limited resources, we still have the opportunity to communicate effectively,” Palacios said. “We have the responsibility to build relationships with parents and students to make sure that they have the best educational experience and outcome possible and available to them. The work that we do is to amplify that, to remind folks that it is happening, that it is possible, and to invite others into this conversation because education is a public good, and it is, in a lot of ways, one of the pillars that help our communities thrive.”
RevED chose the Northeast News, a free newspaper that is delivered to over 8,000 households weekly, as a tool to communicate with parents.
“The Northeast News works really hard at telling all stories, and every story, and it has a mighty team that does its best to reflect all voices of this community,” Palacios said. “I think it’s important, first and foremost, to invest in community resources and community assets and the Northeast News is one of those assets in this neighborhood.”
Palacios, who lives in Northeast, said the 91-year-old paper benefits him as a resident and keeps him informed.
“I also recognize that communication is a tool to build trust and to build community, and so why not invest in that?,” Palacios said. “My hope and want for our community is to continue investing in an asset like the Northeast News because it’s going to tell the stories of our neighbors. It’s going to uplift our community, and it’s going to help us come together as a community to make sure that our voices are heard when decisions are being made on behalf of us.”
He knows his neighbors need to understand what’s happening in education, in their schools, from an unbiased perspective.
“I’m hopeful that it can be communicated in multiple languages so more folks have access to that information that encourages engagement, encourages people to have questions, and encourages investment from others,” Palacios said. “My hope is that we have a more educated community around education. I want people to actively invest in their schools.”
While RevED is funding the reporter, the organization has no influence over the content of the articles.
“I think that there’s a lot of information and misinformation around education in Kansas City, and so I’m hoping that, with this relationship, there’s an investment in the resources and the opportunity to tell the stories that need to be told – let me be clear, an unbiased storytelling here, because truth matters and facts matter, and that is at the root of a healthy relationship and a healthy community,” Palacios said.
For both the Northeast News and RevED,Garcia-Montoya was the perfect fit. She has worked at local nonprofits like Mattie Rhodes and the Hispanic Development Fund, and has been a student leader at UMKC. She has worked in communication for the offices of Mayor Quinton Lucas and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver.
“I’m excited to invest in young people, I’m excited to be able to invest, for Daisy to have this opportunity to tell stories in her community,” Palacios said. “I’m excited to learn about her perspective, and I’m excited to see the stories that she’s got to tell. She is proximate to the issues and the conversations that we need to have. So why not invest in our upcoming leaders and give them the opportunities to demonstrate how awesome they are?”
Garcia-Montoya hopes her work in the Northeast brings a further sense of community among its residents.
“As someone who grew up in the Northeast, I have a connection to the places and people that make up this community,” Garcia-Montoya said. “I truly believe that through providing articles in Spanish, we will be able to bridge a gap that will increase participation and hear voices of those who we may not have had the opportunity to meet before.”
The Northeast News website now has a Google Translate plug-in that allows basic translation into more than a dozen languages commonly spoken in Northeast.