Aara joined MnEEP in August 2016 as a policy fellow for the Minnesota Multilingual Equity Network, a collaboration project with Coalition of Asian American Leaders. The Network focused on an English Learner – Every Student Succeeds (EL-ESSA) Initiative. In that role, Aara exceeded expectations by engaging with communities, stakeholders, and national experts to write the policy brief and argue the Network’s rationale in MDE ESSA committees. She later constructed a program framework for Big Bold Goal #4.
Before joining MnEEP, Aara served as an East African Education Policy Fellow at Augsburg University, and a Senior Summer Fellow at MinnCAN, researching the implementation of the MN Learning English for Academic Proficiency and Success (LEAPS) Act.
Aara is a graduate of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs with a Master of Public Policy, with a concentration in education policy for international development. Aara also has a B.A. in political science with a minor in Spanish, with a concentration in Latin American/US relations. Aara was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Barranquilla, Colombia from 2013-2015 as an English Teacher Trainer and Girls Empowerment Coordinator. She was honored as one of Minnesota’s Ten Outstanding Young Minnesotans in 2012.
Outside of work, Aara serves and represents her community in the North Metro, where she grew up and still resides, through democratic participation.
Big Bold Goal #4
The Emerging Multilingual Learners Network researches and advocates for strong English Language Development programs, practices, and policies. The EML Network also promotes native language development alongside English, and the multilingualism of all students. Aara leads the work by connecting with the MN Department of Education, EL Coordinators and Teachers, bilingual/immersion educators, and EML students and families.
Key focus areas: English language development, Every Student Succeeds Act, Bilingual and immersion education, equity in language learning, Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education, Immigrant education
What inspires you to do this work?
I’m inspired to do this work because I have a background in multilingualism (Spanish and English, started learning French), and the experience of someone who did not learn their heritage language (Tagalog [Philippines]). Language skills have expanded my opportunities to live and work abroad. I feel a sense of disconnect when visiting family in The Philippines. I’ve taught English to Latino immigrants and abroad to see the hunger and recognition of the importance of learning English. Living in Latin America showed me the importance of knowing the language of others.
What do you hope to see change through your work?
Through my work, I hope to see stronger integration of English language development and immersion/bilingual education. I hope to see well-developed English language development programs that propel students toward proficiency in a timely manner so they can focus on content achievement. I also hope to see a paradigm shift in how Minnesota schools and communities view languages other than English: they are an asset that many students already have and that all students should have in a multicultural society.