I was born in another country and landed in the United States of America when I was about 3 ½ years old. My parents were well educated and spoke two other languages in addition to English. The other languages they knew were not useful here in the US, so I grew up only learning English. We came from an island that was a former British colony so even our grandparents spoke English to us. I was always envious of people who could speak another language because they could connect and communicate with so many more people than I could. I love meeting and getting to know new people!
In 2007, my now former husband, Erin Defosse, had the genesis of an idea that we should start a private, English-Spanish bilingual school, like the international school he attended growing up in Mexico City, in Austin. I had spent most of my K-12 years in public schools. I attended a private Episcopal school in West Texas for two years, so the concept of a private, language immersion school was foreign to me. The extent of my foreign language education was two years of French in junior high school in Lubbock, Texas.
We looked around and nothing seemed to fit the bill. While I worked to support our family and provide some of the initial investments in the school, Erin did extensive research, found a great location, and met with numerous parents to identify those pioneers, who in addition to us were willing to take a financial and academic risk on a new school.
After a year and a half of our kids attending a French language immersion school, the Magellan International School (Magellan) opened its doors in the Fall of 2009 to accept the first classes of 46 students. The inaugural classes were comprised of 4 year olds (my daughter’s class), kindergartners, as well as first and second graders (my son’s class) under the leadership of a phenomenal Head of School, Marisa Leon, who was living in Colombia. Marisa came from a family who had started successful schools in Colombia, had a wealth of prior experience in teaching and administration at schools around the world, and had the unique ability to connect with parents and kids, which is a very hard combination to find! Under her leadership, the school has added a grade every year since its inception.
Erin and I are both serial entrepreneurs, but nothing could have prepared me for what it would be like to be involved as a founding parent in an extremely fast growing school! It has grown into an amazing learning-based community surrounded by well-rounded, caring, and educated people. We and many other founding parents invested a lot of time, effort, and money in getting the school off the ground and through its infancy years. We celebrated its 5 year anniversary in May of 2015. Now well into its 6th year, Magellan is established as a highly-regarded International Baccalaureate (IB) World School delivering the Primary Years Programme (PYP) and Middle Years Programme (MYP) to 483 students from 3 year olds to 7th graders!
My kids are bilingual in English and Spanish and are learning Mandarin. It makes me so happy to hear them converse in Spanish with their peers, teachers, and others, who I wish I could communicate with in a language other than English. I’m amazed at what my kids can say and write in Mandarin, which is the ultimate foreign language to me!
Ensuring that the school had its best shot at succeeding “out of the gate” and in the years since has been a very unique and sometimes challenging ride personally, financially, and professionally for me as well as for many of the early founding families. Anything of real value is rarely easy and sacrifices are often needed for the greater good. Now with 20/20 hindsight, it looks like things turned out just as they were supposed to for me, my kids, and hundreds of other families in Austin!
I’m very grateful for all of those involved in educating not only my kids, but also the hundreds of other kids who will go out into the world with a very different, multi-lingual, open minded education than I or many others had. I believe that many of these kids will grow into the highly intelligent, thoughtful, and kind leaders of tomorrow and, unlike me, they will have the ability to connect and communicate with at least a billion more people than I could ever dream of being able to!
By Aruni S. Gunasegaram
I had the distinct privilege to be born to a Mexican family in East Side Salinas, CA. Amidst gang violence and drugs, I was fortunate enough to have role models in my family who demonstrated that any educational and career goal or pursuit was attainable through hard work (ganas), and dedication. My Mom’s family migrated from Mexico to Salinas when they were all in their teens or pre-teens, and 5 out of the 7 attained at least a Bachelors degree from some of the most prestigious schools in California. The examples they set forth and their support ensured a clear path for me in higher education.
In order to stay close to home, I decided to attend Santa Clara University where I studied and received degrees in Psychology and Music. My time at SCU was fruitful; filled with learning and creativity. A few years after, I began my teaching career in Salinas, CA as a part time Music teacher. Teaching was exciting and extremely rewarding to me as I had always wanted to give back to the community that I came from. I quickly began working toward an MA degree in Education and my teaching credential.
After two years at Alisal High School and after revitalizing the Music program, I joined the Latino College Preparatory Academy and once again felt an immediate connection with the community; staff, students, and parents. I was determined to make a positive impact in the lives of the students I served. During my years as a teacher at LCPA I also founded the Music program and was the Volleyball coach during the 2010-2011 season.
One of the students who touched my life during my teaching career is Jose Luis Barajas, a determined, bright young man who came to the United States when he was in 7th grade. Upon his arrival to this country Jose had to adapt to a new environment and face the many difficulties such as the stigmas of being a Latino immigrant. Difficulties that also served as his motor to strive forward. He struggled through middle school and eventually joined LCPA. Recently Jose shared that “En LCPA recupere una motivación que en Middle School había perdido porque en LCPA me encontré con mi Raza, con mi Gente, la cual me brindo un ambiente familiar.” (At LCPA I recovered the motivation I lost in middle school because at LCPA I found my people, the same people that provided me with a familiar environment).
At LCPA, Jose found the support he needed to excel socially and academically, he became one of our top 5 students earning a 4.2 GPA. Jose is now in pursuit of a mechanical engineering degree at San Jose State University. He continues to work hard and persevere as he is a full time student, works a part time job and helps his father with their Tree Service business on the weekends. Jose hopes to graduate from college, help his family and come back to his LCPA community to give back to his people, his “gente.”
In order to further serve the LCPA community I worked on and received my administrative credential and became Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction. Shortly thereafter, and with the recommendation and support of the NHU foundation and teaching staff, I took on the position of Director in February of 2013.
Over the last couple of years I have been struck by the progress we’ve witnessed from our students. This progress has been possible due to consistent and true collaboration within the LCPA familia! We have experienced the highest GPA average as a school (Semester 2 of 2013-2014), and are soon to go above and beyond any expectation in terms of students that will be accepted to a four year university.
By Raul Lomeli