Fortaleza’s mission is to catalyze collective action among parents, educators, community members, and faith leaders to ensure educational equity, and to remove systemic barriers impacting the education outcomes of Latino students.
Beginning as a grassroots group in 2017, Fortaleza was born out of a call to action by Luis Pedroso to a group of Latino community leaders, parents, educators, and faith leaders to find a solution to the achievement gap of Latinos students within Lowell. Fortaleza’s founders pondered the question: Why are Latino students not attaining the same level of success in comparison to other groups of students (including other marginalized groups) in our Lowell Public School and beyond? Through many brainstorming sessions, focus groups, parent and student meetings, and the help of educators, the group determined that advocacy for system change was its priority.
Since its inception, Fortaleza has been involved in several advocacy initiatives connected to its core mission of supporting Latino student education through advocacy and parent engagement within the City of Lowell. After a period of dormancy from 2019-2020, several founding members reunited amidst the turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic which significantly exacerbated the educational inequities impacting the Latino student population. This resulted in a rebirth, which led founding members, Rosa, Cecilio, and Vladimir to recruit new members and ultimately formally establish Fortaleza as an educational nonprofit 501c3 aimed at advocacy for Latino student educational success. Today, we are continuing to build the foundation of Fortaleza through the efforts of our Executive Director, Marianela Rivera, and volunteer effort. The next stage of the organization is to raise funds that will support additional staff for programming, ongoing organizational structure, and administrative support.
Given that within the Lowell Public Schools specifically, Latino students comprise over one-third of the student population, and are facing extensive disparities in educational success and attainment (much like in many districts throughout Massachusetts and the U.S.), Fortaleza is beginning its work within the Lowell community. Since formalizing, Fortaleza has begun collaborative efforts with Lowell Public Schools, and other community partners in their efforts to support Latino student success, with the long-term goal of expanding our advocacy efforts into other districts.