• Leaders from Jason Lee, Woodlawn serving as national advocates for Latino students

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    Isaac Cardona (left) and Alma Velazquez

    Isaac Cardona (left) and Alma Velazquez

    Two school leaders from Portland Public Schools have been selected as fellows for a national organization that advocates for Latino students and English learners. 

    Isaac Cardona, the principal at Jason Lee Elementary School, and Alma Velazquez, assistant principal at Woodlawn PK-5 School, are among the 15 school leaders from across the country to serve as fellows for the National Institute for Latino School Leaders (NILSL).

    “They are leaders with credibility and history in their communities, who speak up tirelessly and have demonstrated impact, and they bring diverse perspectives as seasoned teachers, nonprofit leaders, principals and student affairs professionals,” the organization said in a press release of the fellows, who were chosen from a competitive pool of applicants.

    Cardona has served Jason Lee since 2015, when he started as assistant principal, and became principal in 2016. He has been a strong advocate for equity, and has instituted a multitude ways to connect to students and families, including a WatchDOGS (Dads of Great Students) event that brings in fathers, grandparents, uncles and other family members for an evening of pizza, games and bonding, and a weekly “Morning Mile” walk and run to encourage students and parents to engage in physical activities. The events are always tailored to fit Jason Lee’s culture, which includes a significant Spanish-speaking community.

    Velazquez is in her second year as an assistant principal after serving as a dual language teacher and teacher on special assignment in PPS since 2009. The daughter of migrant farm workers, Velazquez has long been an advocate for Hispanic students and families, and her efforts in engaging students in discussions on race and justice earned her the Summit Learning and Teaching Award.

    The 2019 NILSL cohort includes educators from California, Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas. The NILSL was founded in 2011 by UnidosUS (formerly called the National Council of La Raza) in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It prepares experienced education and community leaders to advocate for national- and state-level policies to strengthen the education of Latino students and English learners.

    Cardona and Velazquez have already taken part in a training session earlier this month in Nashville, Tenn.