Building community as an educator: Paul Yumbla’s story

Community Profiles: Redefining Leadership for Stronger Communities 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, UnidosUS has compiled stories that uplift our community’s resiliency and power that bring the Latino community forward. With the help of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, UnidosUS launched the series “Community Profiles: Redefining Leadership for Stronger Communities,” as a commitment to highlight leaders’ support systems, their collective strengths, and collaborative efforts that shape a more accurate narrative of Latinos as positive contributors to the United States and vital to the nation’s health and well-being. This is the third blog in our series. 

Meet Paul Yumbla, a graduate from UnidosUS’s  National Institute Latino School Leaders (NILSL) fellowship. 

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NILSL is an institute designed to help educators gain the experience they need to advocate for policies and reforms that increase educational outcomes for Latino students. As part of his fellowship, Paul completed a memo with Isaac Cardona, area senior director at Portland Public Schools titled, “Strengthen Parental Involvement Supports to Ensure Latino Families Can Engage with Schools.”  

However, long before Paul joined the NILSL fellowship, he was already an educator with a focus on equity for a little over six years. Here is his story. 

By Stephanie Presch, Content Specialist, UnidosUS 

Forging New Beginnings

Paul was born in Ecuador and moved to the United States as a young child. He cites being a child of parents with personal, political, and cultural views to the left of mainstream views in Latin America. These views often seen as “radical” prompted his family to seek and apply for asylum in the United States. 

The journey of becoming an educator began early in Paul’s childhood. His passion and commitment to confronting educational inequity and helping shape educational access and opportunity emerged from this life event, but most importantly from his parents’ values.  

“Most of my core values today came from my mother and father. They, too, have been active community members and builders. They have always taught and encouraged me to own and nurture my professional and creative crafts,” Paul shared.  

Paul also credits his college professor and mentor for helping him narrow his career choices and focus. 

I remember my college professor and mentor telling me that a person committed to “radical” views and values calling for the abolition and replacement of unjust and inequitable systems and institutions essentially had two paths to take – 1) taking up “arms” and directly challenging these injustices; or 2) becoming a public school educator. 

Paul’s first job as an educator was in Teach for America, where he spent two years teaching in Denver, Colorado. Teach for America teachers commit to teaching in a low-income community for two years, where they are employed by local public schools and confront both the challenges and joys of expanding opportunities for kids. 

“Even before joining Teach of America member corps, I was pretty certain I wanted to pursue a career as a public school teacher,” Paul said.  

Before his assignment was finished, Paul was even more confident that becoming a public school teacher was the right path for him to take.  

Rebuilding Community

Before becoming a school director at High Tech Medica Arts in San Diego, Paul lived in Denver, in a community with a lot of other Mexican and Latin American people, as well as Vietnamese immigrants.  

Paul himself is a DREAMer and works with many immigrant families in his community who are undocumented or part of mixed-status families. He sees having shared struggles and identity with the community as key to being an impactful educator in a community of color.  

As an educator, leader, and activist, I am working toward rebuilding our broader concepts, values, and institutions so that all communities and individuals are valued, seen for who they are and reflect the educational goals and hopes of young and future communities of color.  

Paul self-identifies as an abolitionist educator and leader who rebuilds through communal consciousness. Paul has already accomplished many transformative goals. For example, he and some of his peer teachers created The Moxie Collective: Decolonize Education, a nonprofit education consortium aimed at creating “equity audits” of education-focused programs, institutions, and leaders in Colorado.  

Paul has also been involved in advocating and working for the “Newcomer School” in Denver, which works to meet the needs of newly arrived immigrant children in Denver.  

“My community building work involves being an involved and active leader and mentor for younger, emerging leaders; share my passion and enthusiasm for soccer; and even directly address other racial and social inequities such as food insecurity through urban, community gardens,” Paul explained.  

Paul is a driven and committed leader who is working hard to create a more equitable education system for Latino and immigrant children. Paul has a deep understanding of the community that he serves and works constantly to create meaningful impact.  

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Community Profiles: Redefining Leadership for Stronger Communities During the COVID-19 pandemic, UnidosUS has compiled stories that uplift our community’s resiliency and power that bring the Latino community forward. With the […]