Cynthia Villalovos, ATPE’s representative for the Houston area, shares a personal story from her childhood about her grandmother and the importance of family and civic duty. October 17, 2020, marked 17 years since her grandmother’s passing. A reminder that early voting for the 2020 general election continues through October 30 and Election Day is November 3.
I was in the first grade during the 1976 school year. One day my mother dressed me in my Sunday best instead of heading to school. I knew I wasn’t going to school and was going “somewhere fancy” with my grandmother.
We arrived at the Abilene Civic Center where it seemed like thousands of people were already. My short Hispanic grandmother tightly gripped my hand as we maneuvered through a sea of white faces. I remember asking her who all these white people were. She replied, “They are here to see the same person we are here to see.” I thought we were at some type of church revival, which my grandmother had been known to take us to before.
My grandmother again maneuvered us around, but this time to the front row. We took our seats. Soon, everything began. It was a show! There were dancers and singers all using patriotic songs we sang in music class. Then, all of a sudden, the crowd got very serious. A tall white man in a dark suit spoke for a very long time while other men glared at the crowd. In my 6-year-old mind, I thought those men were mean looking, not realizing they were Secret Service.
Unfortunately, I have no recollection of what “he” said that day. When he finally stopped speaking, everyone clapped and cheered. Music started playing. I asked my grandmother if it was over. She grabbed my hand tightly as we were being pushed through the crowd. My grandmother was trying very hard to get us to the front instead of the exit. I was a bit scared, as this was nothing like any church or tent revival I had been to.
We arrived near the front where “that man” and those mean-looking men were standing. I noticed people were shaking his hand and taking pictures. I immediately knew he must be someone very important. When it was our turn, my grandmother put my arm up to his. He took my hand and shook it. He smiled down at me and said, “What is your name, little girl?” I said, “Cynthia Villalovos. What’s your name?” He smiled and replied, “I’m President [Gerald] Ford.” Then, we were pushed out of the way and made our way to the exit. Later, she told me that people died so we can have a voice and vote.
That whole experience did not make an impact on my life until I was in college. I then realized what my grandmother had done. She was a proponent for voting and ensured that every adult member of our family voted. There were many times she cooked dinner for everyone and then our entire family caravanned to the election location.
Every election year, I am reminded of my grandmother’s resilience, courage, and civic duty. I may not be the most informed, but I continue to grow, learn the issues, stand for democracy and equality, and honor my grandmother, Sarah H. Villalovos!
Cynthia Villalovos is ATPE’s regional membership specialist for Regions 3 and 4. Cynthia started her ATPE career in 1995 as one of the founding officers of McMurry University ATPE and started her education career in Wylie ISD in Abilene in 1996. She received her master’s degree in school administration from Sul Ross State University in 2003; soon after, she moved to Houston and held a position at Chavez High School. In 2005, Cynthia became the principal at the Health Academy at Lee High School, and in 2006, she became the principal of the Health Academy at Waltrip High School. Throughout that time, Cynthia held various offices within ATPE, including serving as the Houston ATPE president from 2012–2014 and the ATPE Region 4 secretary in 2013. Cynthia is also the proud mom of one daughter, who may very well be a future volunteer leader within ATPE. Cynthia is graduating in May 2021 with her doctorate in education. Her dissertation is focused on the impact of novice educator attrition and the impact of educator organizations have on increasing teacher retention.