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Daily Inspiration: Meet Marysol Perez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marysol Perez.

Hi Marysol, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Growing up, books and oral storytelling have always drawn me. My fondest memories are the stories that my Abuelita (grandmother) used to share with me about Mexico’s rich history or of our family’s migration to the U.S. I vividly remember getting excited for the scholastic book order catalogs that I would get in class and beg my mom or dad to buy me a book. Bedtime was my favorite because my mother would read to me every night, and she would use silly voices to make it interesting. While I had the privilege of living in a home that provided me with the resources and support I needed to develop a love for literacy and build my skills as a reader and learner, I knew of many in my community that didn’t have that same privilege. Little did I know that literacy and education would become a lifelong passion and advocacy project of mine.

I am one of the co-founders and CFO of Equity Through Literacy. My partner Antonette and I are both Latinx educators who have predominantly served in low-income BIPOC communities. Before the pandemic, I created a program in the school district that I currently work at as a Language Arts Specialist. The book club’s purpose stemmed from my desire to support families access their inherent literacy skills and gain tools to support their children’s classroom learning. This work came up in a conversation with my partner Antonette over some coffee and immediately sparked an interest in doing this work on a larger scale. When the pandemic hit, we pivoted from the literacy workshops because we saw an immediate need for resources.

As the pandemic has progressed and children have not been able to return to schools, we realized how the pandemic’s inequities were harming children’s education in a multitude of ways. Before the pandemic, the ratio of age-appropriate books was 1 for every 13 children in middle-income communities. In low-income communities, the ratio of age-appropriate books was 1 for every 300 children. We set out on a mission to keep that gap from growing. We’ve focused our efforts on getting books in the hands of children during this extended period. Since our inception in March 2020, we have collaborated with community organizations on distribution events in high-needs Los Angeles communities, including Hawthorne, Leimert Park, Pico/Union, and Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw, Long Beach, Crenshaw/Hyde Park). Additionally, we have donated books and school supplies for special events in high-needs schools in Los Angeles, Whittier, and Lawndale. We have distributed over 1200 backpacks and over 3,500 books to children in grades pre-K through 12th grade. We also offer free digital resources through our social media and website.

Through this work, we have had the privilege of collaborating with several organizations that provide essential resources like food, masks, hygiene kits, and more. This work is truly a labor of love. We prepare every single backpack with intentionality to ensure that the resources are relevant and represent the community that we are serving. Currently, my partner and I are the only ones who do this work, so we spend hours upon hours preparing for the distributions, on top of carrying full-time jobs and being mamas and wives to our amazing and supportive families. While we are a newly established organization, we have big goals. Equity Through Literacy’s mission is to empower families through literacy, and through this work we’d like to be able to offer a way to close the literacy gap across under-resourced communities in the Los Angeles County continuously and through partnerships with organizations, schools, and community members. We would like to be a hub that provides access to tangible resources, tools for empowerment and uplift our communities.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
As with every newly established non-profit, we have had struggles along the way. The biggest one we have faced is access to financial or tangible resources for our distributions. Given that we have only been established for a year, it is tough to apply or receive grants. Most grants want organizations to be established, and to be established, you need money, so it feels like a catch-22. However, we have made it work and have had some very generous private donors, as well as amazing community members, support us with school supplies and book donations. While we would love our organization to sustain our efforts as co-founders and executives of the organization, currently, 100% of all fundraising goes directly back into the community.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I’m an educator. I’ve been in education for over a decade and was a bilingual educator at the elementary level. Currently, I am working as a Language Arts Specialist at LESD. Before that, I was an English Learner Specialist who supported teachers with curriculum and instruction for students who are twice-exceptional learners (Dual Language Learners with a diverse learning need). I am also the CA Early Learning Consultant for MomsRising and focus on projects that revolve around childcare and early learning policies for our state.

Any big plans?
My plans revolve around growing my non-profit, Equity Through Literacy. I hope to one day run that organization full-time and form partnerships across all of Los Angeles County. I would also like for us to have a center where we can host workshops, family-based programs, and literacy-based events for children of all ages.

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Image Credits:

Eder M. Perez

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