December 21, 2018
The sky is still dark at 4am, when Keybi Salinas wakes up in the morning. She prepares breakfast and lunch for her family, wakes her 14-year-old son Roger, and irons his school uniform. At 6:30am, she walks with him to the public high school a few blocks away, and then her workday begins.
Most days, Keybi will spend hours grinding pounds of corn into a fine yellow flour, mixing it with water and salt, and forming the dough into flat circles that will become the fresh, warm tortillas she sells to her neighbors.
Today, however, Keybi leaves her work behind to don a neon-green vest and official lanyard and walk to another public school. For the past two years, she has volunteered as a community auditor, trained by AJS to ensure that her local schools are giving children the quality of education they deserve.
It can be exhausting to find time for this extra work on top of managing her tortilla stand and looking after her family, but for Keybi, it’s worth it to know she is part of measurable changes in her neighbors’ education.
Keybi wants nothing more than to see her son graduate from high school and attend university, where he already dreams of studying civil engineering. Keybi works tirelessly to help her son achieve this goal, but her hopes for her community are even larger.
“Not all children have the same blessing of having parents that fight for their education,” she says. She sees herself as part of a force that ensuring better education for her entire community.
AJS began training community auditors in 2016, and thanks to the tireless work of volunteers like Keybi, have already seen measurable change in the public schools and health centers where they work.
AJS trains auditors to intervene in dozens of public schools, where they track the number of days in class, the number of hours in each school day, and check the teachers’ payrolls against teachers’ attendance, looking for people who collect paychecks without showing up to work.
Keybi and other auditors show up unannounced as many as two or three times per week to track the length of classes, the length of the school day, and anything else they observe. Their regular presence helps hold schools accountable to their responsibilities.
On one of her first visits to one school that was supposed let out at noon, Keybi noticed parents lining up to pick up their children at 11 am. Teachers hushed the children who asked about leaving early, and taught for an extra hour, as they were supposed to. Now, Keybi says, teachers teach until noon every day, five extra hours of instruction each week.
People sometimes ask Keybi why she spends so much time at schools where she doesn’t have children enrolled. She says parents have told her to “not mess with things that don’t matter to you.”
“How could this not matter to me?” she asks, “Children are our present and our future,” she says, “If we have quality education, our community and our country will change.”