A Transformational Journey into Leadership for Social Justice and Equity

My journey in education is marked by my life’s vicissitudes. As a kid I was like most of my inner city peers, poor and a foreigner in my own country. Unlike most five year olds I went to school holding my breath for fear that if I didn’t I might spill the many secrets that I carried with me. I often joke that the happiest time in my young life was when I was hospitalized after getting hit by a car. The accident kept me home from school for almost a year.
I want to have an impact in education through leadership for social justice because I have faith that my experiences have provided insight that is not only unique, but also empathetic and grounded in what may be our students’ own reality.
Though only a fifth grader this would become the first in a series of occasions when I would drop out of school. In the years that followed I would come to be a child laborer, middle and high school drop out, foster kid, run away and all around hot mess. Through it all and in spite of the many turns, I have come across an army of loving and compassionate social servants who serve as inspiration for the work that I do today. Leaving school was difficult, but comparatively not even fraction of what it was like to attempt to return. The return was always obstructed, jarring and inevitably required enormous personal sacrifices, tenacity and fearlessness. I want to have an impact in education through leadership for social justice because I have faith that my experiences have provided insight that is not only unique, but also empathetic and grounded in what may be our students’ own reality. My pursuit of leadership in social justice is a pathway towards broadening my sphere of influence, enhance my knowledge base, and acquire the toolkit needed to improve my levels of advocacy. I believe my voice matters and I would like to be a participant in the conversation around equity and access through education. My tenure in the following positions; Parent Educator Coach, Language Arts Teacher (grades 6-12), Title I Coordinator, and Literacy Coach and Instructional Specialist have not only, given a broad range of professional experience, but more importantly each has helped to refine, clarify and challenge my personal understanding of my role as a school leader. Each of these positions have helped me see the value and complexity of providing support that is thoughtful, data driven and focused on enhancing instruction and academic success. I serve as a resource to students, parents and teachers. I am driven by a commitment to improving the quality of life for students in our communities. To this end I strive to excel at my practice in an ethical and effective manner. As I continue my work I can see myself thriving in a different organization or plowing in the organization that I am a part of now. The current educational landscape is changing how we operate and our attempts at reform have birthed many new challenges. I want to understand the changes and be able to have a toolkit to pull from. I believe it appropriate to fortify my knowledge base by learning from professional development, research based literature, and day- to -day practice, thus building on my educational foundation from Mount St. Mary’s and UCLA. As a school site leader I want to move from standing on the sidelines to actively leading the shift to a more inclusive, positive yet rigorous educational experience for all students. I believe that children are entrusted to us for guidance, compassion and a quality education. I believe in nurturing a culture of care, that is grounded in having high expectations and providing an equally high level of support for our staff, families, community and most importantly, our students. I embrace the challenges that come with working with blossoming young adults. I believe that education should always include personal growth and adaptive skills. Our young adults learn not only from the content that we teach, but also from the lessons in humanity embedded in the work and in our daily interactions with one another. As their second home we will provide not only a common core aligned curriculum, but the tools and guidance to prepare, from day one, to accomplish our goals of 100% college, career and life readiness, our investment in our students is an investment in our community and our future.

Ms. Cynthia Vega Mota is the Assistant Principal of Miguel Contreras Learning Complex, a group of several high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Cynthia was accepted into the first cohort of the Los Angeles New Administrators Program (LANALP) in 2014. LANALP is a U.S. Department of Education funded administrator induction program created out of a partnership between the Center for Collaborative Education and the Los Angeles Unified School District. Part of LANALP requirements is the exploration of inner leadership qualities through rigorous writing and reflection assignments. Cynthia has just completed the LANALP induction program. Her reflection below is but one of her many contributions for growth in the program.