Meet the Aspiring Leader: Karla Soto Mullins

By Karla Soto Mullins, WA Charters 2019 Aspiring Leader

I know first-hand that our country’s educational systems are profoundly inequitable. My own education was defined by inequities until I had the opportunity to attend a charter high school. That experience was truly life-changing.

Because of my own charter school experience, when I heard that there were plans to open a charter school in Wenatchee, where I live, I immediately got involved. I currently serve on the founding board of Pinnacles Prep, which is applying to open a charter public school in Fall 2021. Pinnacles Prep’s vision is to cultivate curious, confident, and self-directed students and graduates culturally sensitive students of conscience.

Wenatchee is a mostly rural community with many migrant families. As a migrant myself, I can relate to the struggles that families face. I want to be a part of the solution. I want to see that all students, regardless of their race, history or ethnicity, get the opportunity to reach their highest and true potential. I want all kids to have a chance to create a life that supports their dreams.

I pursued the Aspiring Leaders program with the Washington State Charter Schools Association to grow my professional and personal leadership skills, and through the program, my passion for educational equity is being channeled into action.

My goal as an Aspiring Leaders was to become more knowledgeable about charter school sector so that I could go out in my community prepared to be a resource for parents who may want to send their child to our local charter school. I’ve achieved that and so much more.

My biggest take-away has been that family and community engagement is our most important asset. I’ve learned that you cannot have a successful school without the support of families and community. I’ve taken my learnings from Aspiring Leaders, and am now leading Pinnacles Prep’s Family and Community Engagement (FACE) committee. I now can not only share my personal story with passion, but can also use my new base of skills and knowledge to build awareness and support in the community.

Through Aspiring Leaders, I have met many passionate individuals from all walks of life who are making racial equity and educational equity their personal and professional mission. Some are currently working in an established charter school, some work with marginalized students of color outside of the charter space, and some want to open or lead a new charter school in their community. It’s wonderful to be a part of this group with such diverse perspectives and visions.

Mentorship been a major highlight of my Aspiring Leaders experience. My mentor has been involved in education for many years, and provides a vast understanding of the charter sector. I am deeply benefiting from her coaching, guidance, and knowledge, and she has provided me an invaluable mentorship as a fellow woman of color.

Aspiring Leaders includes a stipend for you to pursue a personalized professional development experience. I chose to attend the National Charter School Conference in Las Vegas. There I met leaders, teachers, parents, and board members from charter public schools all over the country. I came home feeling connected, challenged, and empowered to help make a mark in my home state.

Today, I recognize that I have a huge role in the charter public school coming to my community—and I am not taking it lightly. There is a lot of work to be done, but I feel supported every step of the way.