Andres Blog - Families Empowered

Andres Blog

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Each year, there are tens of thousands of parents and students who are unable to access educational opportunity. These students are stuck on long waiting lists, and their parents are in need of support to find other opportunities. Families Empowered supports these families – and our work begins with a personal phone call.

Meet Andres Mata-Santellano, one of Families Empowered’s 2017 Communications Intern. Here’s his school choice story:


Where are you from, and where do you go to school now?

“I’m from Houston! I’m currently at Boston College and I’ll be a junior this upcoming fall. I’m majoring in Psychology, and started taking a lot of business classes this past year.”


Before you went off to college, you went to seven different schools. What was the process like for you, to navigate the school marketplace?

“It was always to find the best school for academics. I can adapt to any environment, but my mom always wanted to find the best academic opportunities for me.

My parents worked hard to make sure I had the best possible education. Before college, I attended seven different schools. That means I’ve experience a lot of what the parents FE serves have been through.

The experience overall was fairly easy. I’m not sure if it’s because back then, not as many people were applying to magnet or charter schools, or if it was luck. My parents were always aware of other options – I had to help my mom a little bit in the beginning of the process, because she didn’t know a lot of English at the time. Once she learned, it was easier for my brother and sister when she was applying for them.

My teacher from my zoned school recommended to my mom that I go to a magnet school in Aldine, and when I was in 5th grade a friend of mine left that school to go to YES Prep. And so that’s when my mom started hearing about all these school options. She heard of KIPP through a family friend, so she applied both my sister, Indhira, and I – I was going into 8th grade and she was going into 5th and we both got in.

I later attended high school at The Kinkaid School. KIPP was the one that really helped me get into Kinkaid. I might have stayed with KIPP, but at that time, my KIPP campus didn’t have its own high school, so they were really pushing us to go into private and boarding schools. I was seriously considering St. John’s, but Kinkaid was the one that stood out to me.”

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What was it like for you to transfer to these schools?

“At the beginning it was scary – when I was going to the first magnet school, it was super far away from my house. But I got used to being the new kid, and I loved it. For me, I consider myself an introvert but I think that this experience has helped me grow and become more comfortable in different situations. I’ve gotten used to being outside of my comfort zone, and learned to adapt to new situations.”


Your parents found great schools for you. Is your family looking ahead for your younger siblings?

“I think my mom has learned a lot from the first two switches, with me. She learned a lot about the application process, and this was before the Internet was a huge resource. She also had to learn how to talk to people, or find events so that she could learn more. I appreciate how  proactive she was, for us.

Since I’ve been through it, I’m helping my mom make decisions about schools for my brother, Mauricio.”


Is it important for families to have school options?

“Sure, just because every single kid is different. I think that a lot kids are special in their own particular way – for example, kids who go to HSPVA are “arts people.” So if you have a kid that’s artistically talented, but doesn’t have the option to go into a school that will help them develop that skill, then you’re kind of wasting it.

I think that options should be available for the different talents of each kid.”