The New York Twenty: Real Charter Champions profiles the everyday people who are the champions to their children: parents and grandparents who make the critical choice to send their kids to charter schools. Over the next several weeks we will be sharing the real stories of charter parents around New York State. Today meet Michelle Navas, a Bushwick parent.
Bushwick mother Michelle Navas says she wants a better life for her sons than she had. She explored the all of the public schools available to her and her sons, Michael and David, and chose Broome Street Academy and Great Oaks, both charter schools.
“I always felt like I wanted more for my kids. I don’t have the money for private schools. Charters give kids the opportunity that district schools don’t,” Navas said. “I can see how these schools are working for my sons, where other schools did not.”
She said as soon as her son David started at Broome Street, she noticed a difference in him.
“His grades went up. There is so much help for the kids. There are afterschool programs, connections with YMCA, and overall it’s just a better environment for him. The teachers are so hands on.”
She also said that staff members are outside the school every morning saying “good morning” to the kids— and that it impacts the entire culture of the school.
“It shows such joy for learning.”
She says Great Oaks is also doing great things for son Michael.
“He is a really good student. He does well. He has tutors after school and in between class; he doesn’t go a day without his homework being done. Every charter school is different, and each has their different goals. These are two different charters and my sons are both different kids -- and I see how comfortable my kids are in each of their respective schools. I love it.”
What Navas didn’t realize at that time that she enrolled her kids in charters was that she would have to fight for her sons to make sure they receive the support they deserve from elected officials.
Making sure her kids receive that support is the reason she made the trip up to Albany, boarding a bus well before dawn to make it to Charter School Advocacy Day this past February.
“I feel like charter schools are not being seen for what they are – public schools which arose from a need from the community. People opened them for a reason – and parents choose them for a reason.”
She continued: “My presence in Albany matters, even if I am just one person. When we all decided to stand up for what is best, we’re bigger than just one. We have to put ourselves out there and show up. I need lawmakers to know what these schools have done for my boys.”
And so she shows up year after year, even when she faces lawmakers who are unsupportive. This past Charter School Advocacy Day she encountered a lawmaker whose district includes Broome Street Academy – and Navas said this particular legislator did not do much to hide the fact that he does not support charter schools.
But Navas said despite that particularly challenging meeting, she’ll be in Albany next year, and the year after, and she’ll carry on advocating for kids even after her children graduate.
“I am going to keep fighting – for my kids and for other kids. It’s just that important.”