Latina’s Quest for Better Education for Poor Arizona Kids Boosts Charter School Enrollment

Eve Nunez, one of 18 kids raised by her caballero parents, never had access to good schools growing up. Raised on a farm, she had different priorities, like picking cherries, grapes and plums in the fields with her 17 brothers and sisters.

“It took forever!” she recalled.

She’s vowed to change this lack of access to education not only for her own family, but also for kids across Arizona and, soon, across America.

As the president of Help4Kidz, a nonprofit Eve founded at the dying wish of her son, Frankie, who succumbed to cancer, Eve’s latest project involves helping the poorest kids gain access to innovative new charter schools — and saving those schools in the process.

Charter schools are government-operated, but function more like private schools. They are newer and have greater autonomy, and the freedom from bureaucracy typically translates into a better education for their students.

But, lacking the forced enrollment that other public schools enjoy, charter schools face a distinct disadvantage. Parents must choose to enroll their children in a charter school. And it seems that the parents whose kids could benefit the most know the least about them. Without that awareness and the resulting enrollments, charter schools sometimes falter.

That’s where Eve steps in.

“A school in my community was failing and came to me for help,” she said. “We were able to go to the school and say ‘We can recruit students in your community within a 15-, 20-minute radius, and meet with the parents and teach them my life lesson.’”

Eve offered to reach out to area parents — even going door-to-door to spread the word about the charter school option.

Her pro-education message worked. The failing school’s enrollment increased by 500 students in just two months — more than doubling its student body.

“I’m a youth pastor, and this kind of community outreach has always been a part of my life,” Eve added.

“Education is so important today,” she continued. “I go to a lot of states and cities and talk to them about their child’s education, and I try to bring them all the help I can to access a quality education before they even start kindergarten.”

Despite being free of most government red tape, just like other public schools, charter schools can struggle to bring a family-friendly approach to enrollment. Families expressing interest still may struggle to fill out the correct forms and enroll on time.

“We deal with parents in low-income communities, where a lot of parents can’t even help with their children’s homework. They don’t know how to read and they don’t know how to write,” Eve said.

This is where Eve has found her greatest success. She bypasses traditional barriers that keep these parents (and their kids) out, and goes directly to their homes with “mobile enrollment centers.” Parents then can meet with a live representative and register their children from within their homes.

With Eve on board, the kids’ parents, who often have not graduated from high school themselves, don’t have to deal with going through different, confusing lines or attempt on their own to complete complicated forms. Eve brings everything to them, placing the needs of children and families first.

Once they have enrolled their children, parents report that they enjoy greater communication about their kids’ progress than ever before.

“They would tell me how their old schools wouldn’t tell them their kid was failing until 90 days later, when it was already too late,” Eve said. “Now they hear from the school right away.”

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