Home of Hergit Llenas Online

Month: November, 2017

program implementation meets reality


by Hergit Penzo Llenas
National Director of Latino Outreach
American Federation for Children

Over the last two years, I have heard talk of a phenomenon described as “the apathy of the low-income family” when it comes to the betterment of and involvement in their child’s education. This statement usually comes from individuals who have not had the opportunity to work with these kinds of families. But I have. In my experience, the problem is not apathy, but, in fact, it runs much deeper than that. Let me explain.

On September 2015, a few months after the Nevada legislation passed the Education Savings Account program (ESA), I met Nancy, a Mexican immigrant, mother of three well-mannered girls, and a stay-at-home mom whose husband works in landscaping. 

On that warm afternoon in September, I was manning my first informational booth at an event in Las Vegas when Nancy approached my table. We talked about the ESA, a new and revolutionary program, which would allow her to have access to state funds to pay for ANY(!) educational choices she deemed suitable for her three girls: private school, home based education, virtual academies, online learning, tutoring, even therapies. We also discussed the legal challenges that programs like this had faced in many states. Afterwards, I gave her some flyers in Spanish and my business card. Nancy told me she was willing to take her chances and give it a try.

A few days later, she contacted me:

 –Coco, ¿por favor, me podrías ayudar a llenar los papeles de la ESA? (could you, please, help me fill out the ESA application?), she asked. Mi inglés es limitado y no quiero cometer un error (My English is limited, and I do not want to make a mistake.)

-¡Claro!, con mucho gusto (Of course! It would be my pleasure.), I answered, super excited to be able to assist my first client.

We agreed that we would meet at her house the next day at 9 am.

Since I was expected to inform families about the application process, I had previously surfed the Nevada Treasurer’s website to learn how to navigate the portal. It took me about 20-25 minutes to complete the ESA application process. Based on this practice run, I estimated that helping Nancy with the applications of her two school-aged girls would not take longer than an hour.

I was wrong. It took us almost the entire morning!

Little did I know that: 1. Although Nancy owned a computer, she was not computer literate. 2. The scanner and her desk top could not “talk to each other” given that she lost the connecting cable, and the device was not Wi-Fi ready. 3. The cable-less scanner would ONLY allow us to save the scanned documents on a flash drive, which Nancy did not have nor had she ever heard of such a thing. After looking for the cable for a while, and once we figured out that we could not save the documents, we headed to the nearest Office Depot to purchase a flash drive. The drive between the store and Nancy’s house was 20 minutes each way. It was close to 11 am when we made it back to her house.
We then started to fill out the application online. On a few occasions, we were “dropped” from the website, and had to start all over again. Long story short, when we finally completed the two applications, it was almost noon. A process that took me 20 minutes to complete at home ended up being a three-hour ordeal for her and a four-hour task for me (adding the travel time back and forth from my house to hers).

Let’s imagine if Nancy would’ve had to figure this process out by herself. Chances are that it would have taken even longer or she would have given up before finishing. Furthermore, even though the language was a limiting factor, her lack of computer skills was the real problem. For many families that I’ve come in contact with, not having a computer and Wi-Fi at home made matters worse.

Thankfully, we eventually started creating workshops in facilities around the state that were equipped with computers, Wi-Fi, volunteers and scanners to assist applicants with the application process. Working families showed up in big numbers prepared and enthusiastic about making a difference in their children’s education.

Apathy was never the issue and rarely is for parents who love their children.  Access to the knowledge to navigate the system, lack of resources, disinformation, language limitations, feeling intimidated by paperwork and forms, among many other factors are usually what deters parents from participating. In our fight to ensure that parents across this country are given the right to choose how their child is educated, let’s keep this in mind before tagging certain groups with labels such as apathetic.   


“No se trata de cuanto ganas, si no de cuanto gastas”

De Hergit Penzo Llenas
Directora Nacional de Molización Hispana
para la American Federation for Children

“No se trata de cuanto ganas, si no de cuanto gastas”, me dijo mi padre un día de invierno hace casi 25 años. Este consejo ha sido uno de los pilares que han regido mi vida y, definitivamente, una de las razones de la estabilidad financiera que haya podido tener.
Un lustro atrás ganaba apenas unos $12 la hora, es decir menos de $25,000 verdes al año. No obstante, me alcanzaba para cubrir mis gastos y pasear un poquito. Desde luego, no era la Vida-Loca ni mucho menos, pero igual no malpasaba e incluso guardaba un dólar para el día lluvioso o como dicen los americanos: “a rainy day” que es lo mismo que “tener un pe$o para la vergüenza”, como decía Herman Penzo, mi viejo.
“Puedes tener un millón en el banco, mas si te compras un helicóptero de 1.5 millones, te quedas pobre al instante. Sin embargo, si ganas $20 y gastas $15, siempre tendrás un monto positivo del cual echar mano, aunque este sea de $5 pesos. Así de sencillo explicaba el dilema, ¡el secreto!, de la liquidez financiera mi progenitor.
¡Y es que así de sencillo es!… si alguien se toma el tiempo de explicárnoslo y
–MUCHISIMO MÁS IMPORTANTE- no los enseña con su ejemplo.

¿Y a qué viene todo esto?
Pues viene al caso porque nuestros hijos aprenden de nosotros, los adultos en su vida, cómo entender y manejarse con el dinero. Para quienes leyeron “Poor Dad, Rich Dad” (padre rico, padre pobre, en cristiano) este concepto no es del todo ajeno. Tampoco lo es para quienes escuchan predicar el evangelio de la abundancia a través de las charlas como las de Abraham Hicks y otros pastores de variopintas denominaciones.

La falta de conocimiento financiero ha convertido la comunidad hispana en una de las presas mas fáciles de atrapar en las redes de los embaucadores, farsantes, patanes y charlatanes sobre esta bella tierra. Esta falta de entendimiento es, a su vez, pasado de padre a hijo, de hija a nieto, hasta el infinito. De ahí que, los depredadores hagan su fiesta entre y a costa de nosotros.
¡Mucho ojo! A espabilarse. No permitamos que nuestras futuras generaciones tropiecen con la misma piedra. ¡Es hora de levantar los pies! Si usted tiene demasiadas excusas para educarse debidamente sobre el tema de qué es el dinero, cómo trabaja y cuando es propicio tomar riesgos para multiplicarlo, si está demasiado cansada, aburrido, ocupada o sobrecogido por la FALTA de estabilidad financiera en su vida, entonces, POR LO MENOS, permita que sus hijos tomen clases o lean libros sobre alfabetización financiera (finantial literacy). Facilite que se eduquen, “que se empapen” sobre el tema.
Porque, aquí entre nos, ¡ya está bueno!
Ya está bueno de endeudarse hasta las narices, de no tener o perder el crédito, de someternos a tasas de interés exorbitantes, de que nuestros hijos salgan de las universidades con una deuda que les tomará 20 o 3 años saldar.

Este sistema está hecho para que nos lleguen mil solicitudes de crédito por correo y cero, nada, ninguna para educarnos sobre la complejidad de los préstamos, hipotecas, notas bancarias, APRs, ciclos, términos, proporcionalidad entre deuda e ingreso y un montón de otras reglas que gobiernan la economía personal, local, mundial y global -dicho se ha de paso-.
Entonces, ¡manos a la obra, pues!