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 Bronx charter mom Yesenia Sepulveda.
When Bronx mom Yesenia Sepulveda was looking for a public school for her son Nicholas, she said Heketi Community Charter School was her only option.
“There was never a Plan B. Heketi was always Plan A,” Sepulveda said.
Sepulveda said she did her research on the options available to her before enrolling her son in kindergarten (he’s in first grade now). She said it’s a half a block from where she lives and she had always heard great things about the school and its culture. After attending the open house and researching the school’s test scores – which are higher than the district average in both Math and ELA -- she was totally sold.
“I saw the discipline and structure, as well as the interaction between the principals, teachers and parents. I fell in love with everything the school had to offer.”
After enrolling Nicholas in the lottery she was notified he did not get in and was instead waitlisted. She said she cried when she received that letter -- but then prayed every night that a spot would open up for her son. A spot finally did open for Nicholas and Sepulveda said she could not be more thrilled with the schooling he’s receiving.
“His learning has skyrocketed. He is performing above grade level in math, already learning fractions, and he learned how to read at an accelerated rate. He is one of the top two readers in his class. He will come to me and say, ‘Mommy, I know how to read; I know how to do a sentence all by myself.’ It is breathtaking to see how much he is learning.”
Heketi emphasizes the importance of multilingual education and its website even says the school was “born out of a desire to honor this heritage and embrace the power of multilingual literacy and reading skills for success and leadership”. Additionally, this year Heketi has a 25 percent English Language Learner (ELL) student population.
Sepulveda calls herself the “number one spokesperson for charter schools” and will vehemently defend them against naysayers – even if those naysayers are in her own family. She says she has a relative who called the success of charters a “façade” but Sepulveda tells her: “you need to see the schools for yourself”.
She believes seeing the schools in action will change minds of those who don’t understand the appeal of a charter education.
“I’ve seen what happens in many of the district schools. There is no individual focus, no communication between teachers and parents about how to better the child. With 8-9 hours being at school, that is like my son’s other family and we should be communicating about how to make these kids the most productive members of society they can be. This is our future.”
Sepulveda also urges parents to take an active role, saying, “This is your child’s life. Do research. Talk to other parents. Visit schools. See for yourself.”
As for Nicholas, he will be enrolled in Heketi through fifth grade and after that, Sepulveda will find a charter middle school for her son.
“We are committed to charters for life,” she says.
This dedication and passion is why we’re thrilled to highlight Yesenia Sepulveda of Heketi Community Charter School as one of The New York 20 – The Real Charter Champions.