I’m fortunate to utilize several of EP’s core values in advancing equity and excellence for young people in Texas on a daily basis, including taking bold action to establish a system that supports thousands of families.

In his work with Families Empowered in Texas, Robert Sepeda is proud to be a vital member of a small team whose work directly influences the educational pathways and life outcomes of thousands of underserved children and families each year.

The families that Families Empowered supports are actively seeking to enroll their child in a different school because they believe their child can reach his or her potential with the proper guidance and support from a high-quality school. Families Empowered, a nonprofit organization, helps parents understand all of their options, apply during the appropriate timeframes, and advocate for their child’s right to a high-quality education through school choice.

As Robert experienced personally, knowing that you can apply, should apply, and how to apply to schools makes or breaks opportunities. When Robert applied to college himself, he didn’t know that he could apply for private universities; because of the expense, he assumed they were out of reach. Being a child of an immigrant parent and raised in a low-income area of California, Robert persisted through college and beyond with minimal knowledge of the system.

Now, his personal experience gives him crucial insight into the perspectives of the majority of the families that Families Empowered serves -- immigrant, refugee and low-income households who want the same thing Robert’s parents wanted for him, a fulfilling life enabled by a quality education.

In 2013, Robert took bold action to transform Families Empowered’s practice from hosting small gatherings for hundreds of families into establishing a system that supports thousands.

His work and results to support immigrant, refugee and low-income families include:

  • Launching a call center that hired bilingual students from the communities that Families Empowered serves. These students are predominately low-income, first-generation college students whose parents were able to choose good schools that supported them to college. What began modestly with four interns calling 6,000 families has become 10 interns calling over 15,000 families who are searching for a better school.

  • In 2015, overseeing the call center call 15,410 families in two cities with a 51 percent connection rate.

  • Conceptualizing the idea of using new technology to make the process efficient by implementing enterprise quality software, leading to the growth of family connections.

  • Showing parents an average of five schools they are interested with and helping them find the right school for their child.

  • Interacting with 39,916 families to show them that they have agency to decide where they want to send their child and that they shouldn't settle for anything that they are not happy with.