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Shaina Cavazos

Four students — two documented, two not — made this teacher determined to fight

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Chalkbeat journalists ask the people we come across in our work to tell us about their education stories and how learning shaped who they are today. Learn more about this series, and read other installments, here.

Carlota Holder will begin teaching this fall at at Enlace Academy. She grew up in the small town of Batesville, Indiana, and has been working in schools across Marion County since 2009. Before accepting a job at Enlace, Holder worked at the now-closed Craig Middle School in Lawrence Township and Creston Middle School in Warren Township.

When I started kindergarten, in order to get some extra English instruction, I was pulled out with special education. And my mom freaked out … and she quit talking to me and my brother in Spanish.

As I grew older, I began to resent my mom for letting my Spanish go. In high school I had to kind of take it upon myself to learn to read and write. Just like my students, I could converse, but I couldn’t read and I couldn’t write.

My first year at Craig as the assistant (charged with helping English-learners), I had a group of students who were very involved in the Dream Act movement, and I took them to these Latino Youth Collective meetings on Fridays — that’s where I spent my Friday evenings.

We had the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C. We left Friday night, got there Saturday morning, and walked five miles from Arlington Cemetery to the White House to this huge immigration rally.

I took four girls with me: two of them were undocumented, two of them were documented. Two of them who know they can go on to bigger and better things because they were born here, and two of them who are super smart and want to go on to bigger and better things but don’t know if they can.

So we walked to the White House, protested in front of the White House and watched people get arrested, and tears just fell.

That was kind of the turning point where I was like, I’m not leaving education. I can’t.

These girls are so smart, and they were just in eighth grade, and they were all crying. They were crying for their friends because their friends aren’t going to have the same opportunities they are, or they were crying for themselves because they want those same opportunities.

It was definitely that trip where I was like, I only want to work with this population of English-language learners, and I’m not going to leave education until this fight is fought and won.

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