As Robert Sepeda 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.
Prior to the EP Fellowship, Robert helped immigrant and low-income parents develop and achieve personal goals as part the Head Start Program in Houston, Texas. He also helped improve professional development for Head Start family support workers and investigated ways to integrate family data between different program divisions at a large nonprofit service agency.
He became an EP Fellow because he wanted to explore new pathways of helping low-income students and children of immigrant students achieve academic success in the dynamic and varied Houston educational landscape.
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In Houston, school choice is in high demand and thousands of Houston students are wait-listed at charter schools annually. However, data from wait-listed families shows that many do not pursue more than one school choice option.
As a Fellow with Families Empowered, a nonprofit organization that supports an escalating number of families searching for a great school for their child, Robert collaborated with principals, Head Start staff, and parents to gather data on the understanding and desire for Families Empowered's support services within the Pre-K and elementary school settings. Robert developed a proposal for expanding Pre-K partnerships and programming to families with children entering the school system.
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 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.
Now serving as Data and Project Manager for Families Empowered, Robert 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.
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.
Robert’s 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; growing the outreach from four interns calling 6,000 families to 10 interns calling over 15,000 families who are searching for a better school; and interacting with nearly 40,000 families to show them that they have agency to decide where they want to send their child.
Robert was recognized as one of EP’s EPic Alumni in 2016.