Elevating student opportunity: Q&A with Homero Penuelas
Editor’s note: Since this interview took place, Assistant Principal Homero Penuelas’ role has expanded. He now oversees climate and culture and post-secondary success in addition to working with Curie High School’s history, English and world language departments.
The Fund: Can you tell me about your role as an assistant principal at Curie?
Homero Penuelas: On the administration team we distribute responsibilities. I am in charge of literacy among our students. I work with our history, English and world language departments with that in mind. I also work with a focus on what post-secondary education looks like after Curie for our students.
The Fund: Can you tell us about your career and what brought you to Curie High School?
Penuelas: I have been at Curie for over 10 years. I started as a substitute teachers and then became a history teacher for eight years. Currently, I serve as an assistant principal (AP), and I am in my third year. I came to Curie because I wanted to support students like myself – students who needed the same type of support that I did as a high school student.
The Fund: What inspired you to enter education?
Penuelas: As an undocumented student, when I was able to go to college after I became a resident of the U.S., I saw there were more minorities working facilities in the hallway than sharing a classroom with me. I want to make sure that students like myself, who are immigrants and first-generation college students, are getting support. I hope there is going to be a definite change for the future of my son and daughter, and I want to be part of that change.
The Fund: How do you go about supporting those students?
Penuelas: We offer support all around. With the DREAMERs and DACA students alongside teachers, counselors and stakeholders, we have created a DREAMERs coalition that supports students in different avenues. We are putting our resources and time together to support students as much as possible. Within my post-secondary focus, we provide information to students on financial aid and the college application process that they would otherwise not have.
The Fund: What is a daunting education or management challenge you have faced as an AP?
Penuelas: We did not have a way of tracking our college enrollment among our students before I started. I would always get questions as on students have not yet applied to FAFSA or particular schools, and I didn’t know those answers. We now know which specific students have yet to do college-related tasks, and that allowed us to fully support students missing some steps. During my time, we grew our college enrollment rate more than 12 percent within two years.
The Fund: What has informed your approach to leadership as an AP?
Penuelas: Talent is distributed evenly, but opportunities are not. My focus is on equity and how we approach leadership. Education is the true equalizer, and we must make sure our students are able to tap into that. Education is one of the chances to life-changing outcomes for the communities we serve; I’m always trying to increase those opportunities.