The First Three Years of LAEN: From Unity-Seeking to Equity-Seeking

  • Catalina Calero
  • Derik Chica


Two co-founders of the Latin American Education Network (LAEN)—now the Latinx, Afro-Latin-America, Abya Yala Education Network (LAEN)—discuss the evolution of this grass-roots, volunteer-led community organization, which was created as a response to the lack of collective action around the high “drop-out” rate of Latinx students in Toronto, Ontario. Using a social movement theory framework, they discuss engagements with bureaucratic schooling institutions, members and community. Initially, LAEN sought complete unity in advocating to the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board, the two largest publicly funded boards in Toronto. From 2012 to 2015, this desire for unity evolved into a need for equity-minded solutions which challenged the possibility of complete unity. Some of the pivotal points in this now documented history include the journey for a more inclusive identity label, listening to the voices in our community through yearly conferences and challenging the manner in which history/heritage months are celebrated by the school boards. This paper documents the on-the-ground history of this evolution, successes and challenges along the way and a new hope for the future of the organization through new leadership and equity-led actions.


  1. Alcoff, L. (2005). Latino vs. Hispanic. Philosophy & Social Criticism, 31(4), 395–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Curtis, B., Smaller, H., & Livingstone, D. W. (1992). Stacking the Deck: The Streaming of Working Class Kids in Ontario Schools. Toronto: Our School–Our Selves Education Foundation.Google Scholar
  3. Dei, G. (2010). The Possibilities of New/Counter and Alternative Visions of Schooling. English Quarterly, 41(3–4), 113–132.Google Scholar
  4. Dei, G., Mazzuca, J., McIsaac, E., & Zine, J. (1997). Reconstructing the ‘Dropout’: A Critical Ethnography of the Dynamics of Black Students’ Disengagement from School. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dei, G. J., Holmes, L., Mazzuca, J., McIsaac, E., & Campbell, R. (1995). Drop Out or Push Out? The Dynamics of Black Students’ Disengagement from School. Toronto, ON: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.Google Scholar
  6. del Valle Escalante, E. (2015). Self-Determination: A Perspective from Abya Yala. In M. Woons (Ed.), Restoring Indigenous Self-Determination: Theoretical and Practical Approaches (pp. 101–109). Bristol: E-International Relations.Google Scholar
  7. Gaztambide-Fernández, R. A., & Guerrero, C. (2011). Proyecto Latino Year 1- Exploratory Research: Report to the Toronto District School Board. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.Google Scholar
  8. Ladson-Billings, G. (2007). Pushing Past the Achievement Gap: An Essay on the Language of Deficit. The Journal of Negro Education, 76(3), 316–323.Google Scholar
  9. LAEN Latinx, Afro-Latin-America, Abya Yala Education Network. (2017, March 27). In Facebook [Group page]. Retrieved July 20 2017, from
  10. Linde, C. (2009). Introduction: How Institutions Remember. In C. Linde (Ed.), Working the Past: Narrative and Institutional Memory (pp. 3–14). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Matute, A. A., & Chica, D. (2014). Community Voices, Community Action: Latin American Education Network 2013 Community Education Forum Report. Latin American Encounters, 2, 25–39.Google Scholar
  12. Mignolo, W. D. (2005). The Idea of Latin America. Malden: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  13. Moreno, G., & Gaytán, F. X. (2013). Focus on Latino Learners: Developing a Foundational Understanding of Latino Cultures to Cultivate Student Success. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 57(1), 7–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Parekh, G., Killoran, I., & Crawford, C. (2011). The Toronto Connection: Poverty, Perceived Ability, and Access to Education Equity. Canadian Journal of Education, 34(3), 249–279.Google Scholar
  15. Richards-Schuster, K., & Dobbie, D. (2011). Tagging Walls and Planting Seeds: Creating Spaces for Youth Civic Action. Journal of Community Practice, 19, 234–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Scharron-Del Rio, M. R., & Aja, A. A. (2015, December 5). The Case FOR ‘Latinx’: Why Intersectionality Is Not a Choice. Latino Rebels. Retrieved from
  17. Schugurensky, D., Mantilla, D., & Serrano, J. F. (2009). Four in Ten: Spanish-Speaking Youth and Early School Leaving in Toronto. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.Google Scholar
  18. Shankar, J., Ip, E., Khalema, E., Couture, J., Tan, S., Zulla, R., & Lam, G. (2013). Education as a Social Determinant of Health: Issues Facing Indigenous and Visible Minority Students in Postsecondary Education in Western Canada. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 10(9), 3908–3929.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Tarrow, S. (2011). Power in Movement: Social Movement and Contentious Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. TDSB, Equity and Inclusive Schools. (2015). Sifting, Sorting and Selecting: A Collaborative Inquiry on Alternatives to Streaming in the TDSB. Resource Document. Toronto District School Board.,%20Sorting%20and%20Selecting.pdf Accessed 13 Feb 2017.
  21. Valenzuela, A. (1999). Subtractive Schooling: U.S.–Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  22. Valenzuela, A., Garcia, E., Romo, H., & Perez, B. (2012). Institutional and Structural Barriers to Latino/a Achievement. Journal of the Association of Mexican American Educators, 6(3), 22–29.Google Scholar
  23. Vásquez Jiménez, A. (2015). Change Hispanic Heritage Month to Latin-America History Month: Toronto, Ontario and Canada. Retrieved from
  24. Yankauer, A. (1987). Hispanic/Latino–What’s in a Name? American Journal of Public Health, 77(1), 15–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Yau, M., Rosolen, L., & Archer, B. (2015). Census portraits, understanding our students’ backgrounds: Latin American students report. (Report No. 14/15-17). Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Toronto District School Board. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catalina Calero
    • 1
  • Derik Chica
    • 1
  1. 1.TorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations