Seattle Pacific University alumna Julieta Altamirano-Crosby works both in Washington State and Guerrero in Mexico with students who have barriers to education mainly because they come from impoverished communities and do not have the facility for the English language.
Her credentials from SPU gave her the boost to help those who are in similar circumstances when she first came to the United States in 2009. She is aware that there’s so much to be done to help people find their voice through education and develop future leaders who understand the plight of those who cannot fend for themselves. She advocates for marginalised people especially parents to find their voice because she believes that “a person’s identity and growth are closely tied to their understanding and appreciation of culture and language.”
Before completing her second master’s degree – MEd in Educational Leadership from Seattle Pacific University in 2018 – Dr Altamirano-Crosby already held a master’s in Communication Science from Complutense University of Madrid in Spain and a PhD in Social Communication from the University of Havana in Cuba. However, her inability to communicate her thoughts because of her limited English was the first challenge that she had to overcome.“In Mexico, there is a saying, ‘You have to renew yourself or die.’ It was so painful to learn how to drive in a new country with a different set of rules, to learn how to adapt to survive in a different culture, and not be able to communicate with anybody,” she recalls.
Her personal struggle with her limited English spurred her to learn it well and improve her speaking skills. She enrolled in English Language Learner (ELL) classes at a community college near her residence. “With the help of teachers and advisors, I was able to learn how to read and write at a proficient level in English,” she relates. Everything else fell into place afterwards.
Her track record of collaboration and relationship-building in education and government sectors put her in good stead once she had overcome the language barrier and understood a good bit of the American culture. She worked as a social and medical interpreter for school districts and hospitals.
Dr Altamirano-Crosby’s desire to break down discrimination, increase accessibility to education and spread cultural awareness led her to set up WAGRO Foundation, a non-for-profit organisation working to break down barriers to education for Latinos in the state of Washington and in Guerrero, Mexico. “I founded WAGRO in 2012 to assist Latinos and indigenous Mexican students and families in finding academic success in Washington as they navigate life in their new home,” she explains.
She then became director of Latino enrolment for Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Seattle which is composed of 74 member institutions from 2015-16.
Dr Altamirano-Crosby has been a presentor of professional learning on Cultural Competence and Family Engagement in the schools covering issues dear to her heart. Her topics include:
- Creating a student-friendly learning environment for ELL
- De boca en boca: Communication strategies among Latino parents who feel invisible
- Strategies for enhancing equity and engagement for Latino families
- Latino enrolment barriers and strategies for improving school-community relations.
She did a number of research projects about Latinos in education in Washington State which she presented during the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) Convention in San Diego, California, and at the Washington Education Research Association (WERA) Conference in SeaTac in 2016. She also presented her paper on Education for Excellence, Diversity and Respect in August 2018 during an international conference hosted by Seattle Pacific University and the Janusz Korczak Association.
After overcoming her challenges, opportunities to help the underrepresented simply opened up to her. Dr Altamirano-Crosby now serves as a councilwoman after being elected to the Lynnwood City Council last year.