Liliana is a COFI Virtual Peer Ambassador on the frontlines of the battle to ensure equity in remote learning, especially for bilingual students, and save immigrant families economically. She is also a mom who survived a terrible case of COVID-19.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.
I live in Aurora with my husband, 19-year-old son and his girlfriend and newborn baby, and my 13-year-old daughter. My 26-year-old son graduated college and lives on his own.
Tell us about your work as a Virtual Peer Ambassador.
COFI used to bring people together in groups to talk but now people were very disconnected. I call families, check in on them and help connect them with resources. A lot of my job is listening. Parents think we are just talking when I ask “how is your day? Do you feel worried about food, bills, remote learning, etc.” but I am talking notes and being very intentional with my questions.
With me, you don’t only see one family you see many because I am their voice.
How has the Virtual Peer Ambassador program been instrumental in the Aurora schools?
Most moms I talk to are worried about remote learning. I emailed the Superintendent to share what we were going through and invited her to meet with us. At that meeting I was very proud because the parents asked tough questions about how the district was prepared to support our families. The Superintendent was taking notes and very interested in what the parents were proposing. Two weeks later they created a great web page where we could find all the information and services.
We said parents should have a seat at the table when making decisions about planning for a return to school. We invited the Superintendent to a meeting with parents to share what is failing for them, especially those who don’t speak English. This has led to so many important conversations and changes. The district sent surveys to parents, offered workshops in Google, asked us to test different software options to select the one that works best for families. And, last week, we won an agreement to expand the Breakfast After the Bell program districtwide! This wouldn’t have happened without parents at the table. It would just have been Administrators deciding. I am very hopeful and grateful because the school district is listening to us.
You and your husband recently contracted COVID 19. What was that experience like? How are you doing now?
It was really hard physically, financially, and emotionally. I knew something was wrong because I was so tired I could barely talk on the phone. I don’t have insurance so I tried to get an appointment at the public clinic. They couldn’t see me for a week so I took a COVID-19 test. While I waited for the results, things spread quickly. Within 2 days I was unable to get out of bed or eat. I was so scared to go to sleep thinking I wouldn’t wake up. Even though I isolated from my husband, he got it too. The Kane County Health Department moved the rest of the family out of the house into a hotel. I am so thankful. Knowing my children were safe helped with my recovery.
My husband works in construction so both of us weren’t working. We got behind on our mortgage and are worried about how we will get back on track.
What helped you battle COVID 19?
Knowing I had lots of people with me in those difficult times–friends, family, my extended COFI family, my alderman, the Kane County Health Department, etc. It was not only economic pain, but an emotional crisis.
Did your experience with COVID change you?
It taught me not to take everything for granted. If I can do it today I will because tomorrow you never know. Only makes me more motivated to keep advocating. As a mother, I am a fighter.
How do you feel being a part of COFI during this time?
If people really want to help families then engage them. No matter how much resources you bring, if you aren’t reaching out to parents you are missing the most important piece.
The immigrant community is suffering more because don’t have access to federal resources like unemployment. We still have to pay our bills and our taxes too! With COFI, we are reaching out to legislators for our families and that helped to secure funding to support immigrant families.
With COFI’s training, tools, emotional and financial support I am inspired to keep doing this work. So many families are in the same situation but without access to resources or support. I am very proud of being part of this great organization that not only talks about but takes action to help our vulnerable communities.