Good morning, CharterFolk.
Today we are very pleased to recognize Margie Lopez-Waite, CEO of Las Américas ASPIRA Academy in Newark, Delaware, as CharterFolk Extraordinaire.
Margie’s life journey shows how a powerhouse leader putting compelling vision and resiliency to work within the charter school movement can drive change improving public education for all kids and families.
Margie’s story starts in Ellenville, New York where her parents settled after having immigrated from Puerto Rico. After her father lost his job, Margie’s family moved to Dover, Delaware where fourteen people from extended family lived together in a three-bedroom home. Margie attended the local public school, and despite feeling marginalized as a Latina student, she excelled, completing a college-preparatory course of study. She ultimately became the first in her family to graduate from college, receiving a degree in marketing from Delaware State University.
After 16 successful years in the private sector, Margie decided to follow her lifelong dream of becoming an educator by pursuing a master’s in secondary education and school leadership. She had planned to spend five years in the classroom, but during her graduate studies she became involved with the Delaware chapter of ASPIRA …
… which was in the planning stages of developing a charter school. The organization recruited Margie to join the board in 2009 and ultimately convinced her to become the Head of School. In 2011, Las Américas ASPIRA Academy opened …
… becoming the first dual-immersion public school in the State of Delaware. Here Margie explains what it was that drew her to the opportunity.
Well, I am one of the founders [of Las Américas ASPIRA Academy], and the reason I was so intrigued to be part of that founding board was because I really believed in the concept of making biliteracy and bilingualism an asset in our public school system. Our philosophy was to embrace both languages and to show equal respect to both of them so that students could earn those skills and continue through high school, college and career with that skillset.
The school was quickly inundated with applications, which led to urgent requests from parents to expand. Under Margie’s leadership, the school secured the additional facility needed to serve 800 students in grades K-8.
In the process, Las Américas ASPIRA Academy became recognized to be one of the most successful public schools in Delaware, receiving various awards and distinctions for enabling high levels of literacy in both English and Spanish.
It was only natural that parents would eventually request that Margie and her team add a high school …
… something they were able to accomplish despite having to open the new program …
… in the middle of a pandemic!
Along the way, Las Américas ASPIRA has changed the discussion about bilingual education across the entire state of Delaware.
Today more than 5,000 elementary school students in Delaware are enrolled in dual-immersion programs, with dozens of traditional public schools having followed the trail blazed by ASPIRA. Margie, of course, continues to serve as a primary ambassador …
… but another of her strengths has been cultivating the next generation of advocates able to make a compelling case (in both English and Spanish, of course).
Through her amazing career, Margie has become recognized to be one of the powerhouse women driving change in Delaware.
That has included building relationships with powerful political allies, like Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, who two months before celebrating the Academy’s success …
…. played a key role selecting our nation’s Vice-President.
Through it all, Marge has somehow reserved enough energy to engage in broader advocacy efforts in support of charter schools, serving on the board of the Delaware Charter School Network …
… and becoming one of the most sought after advocates supporting policy proposals driven by Delaware’s Governor.
And in a particularly fitting gesture, Margie was recently made a Trustee of Delaware State University.
How’s that for poetry?
From first generation college attendee to university trustee of the school she attended, Margie Lopez Waite has made an extraordinary contribution to the charter school movement and to advocacy efforts advancing improved bilingual education for all.
It’s an astounding record of powerhouse impact on behalf of kids and families. All ample reason we couldn’t be happier than to recognize Margie Lopez-Waite as CharterFolk Extraordinaire.