We’re continuing to highlight our Advocacy Network participants, and we’re excited about all the work they’re doing in the field and across the state. For past blogs click here and here and here

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Anna Ricci-Mejia is an example of how multifaceted a Bostonian’s life can be. She grew up in Boston’s North End neighborhood. She’s an early educator at the East Boston Social Centers. Her parents immigrated to Boston from Italy. Her husband is from Central America. She speaks English and Italian. And in high school she learned to speak Spanish. 

When Ricci-Mejia heard about Strategies for Children’s Advocacy Network, she was immediately interested. She wanted to speak up for people. In any of her three languages.

“I know a lot of people, especially undocumented immigrants, are afraid to speak up or even get quality childcare for their children. And I always say, it doesn’t matter what your immigration status is. Your kids have to learn, and they have to learn and socialize when they’re young, because if they don’t, it will be harder later on.”

In the classroom, Ricci-Mejia speaks whatever language children in her care respond to, creating the kind of supportive environment she didn’t have as a kid who went straight from her mother’s care into kindergarten. She didn’t speak English. Other kids teased her. But over time she learned this new language. 

“My parents struggled a lot because they didn’t speak English, but we lived in the North End, and at that time everybody spoke Italian. But when it was time for parent-teacher conferences, I always went with my mom, and I would translate. So basically I was an adult and a kid at the same time.” 

Translating for her parents and later for other people didn’t seem like advocacy, even though helping people connect to their communities and to community resources is pretty much a living definition of being an advocate. 

Given her history, it’s no surprise that what stands out about the Advocacy Network for Ricci-Mejia are the inspirational stories.

“We had a guest speaker, Senator Sal DiDomenco, who started off in an early education program and went on to become a state senator. He started off so small, and look what he grew into. Listening to him talk, I had tears in my eyes.” 

It was an experience that turned into a conviction for Ricci-Mejia. 

“I decided to speak up more for children’s sake. Every word counts. I know there’s a lot of frustration; this is a low-paying career. But when you’re compassionate with children, you learn something new every day.”

For her Advocacy Network project, Ricci-Mejia helped parents fill out the Boston Child Care Census, both translating and helping parents who aren’t computer literate. 

“I want parents to understand that filling out the survey will impact their children’s future and the futures of children that parents may have in the years ahead.”

For Ricci-Mejia, listening is also part of the job, getting parents’ feedback on what’s working and what isn’t, and responding to their concerns. 

Ask Ricci-Mejia what she would want policymakers to know about her work, and she says: 

“Honestly, I would love for them to follow us for a day and actually see what we do and see how important we are in children’s lives and how hard this job is. Taking care of other people’s children is a huge responsibility. You’re not just taking care of yourself or one child, you’re taking care of five, six, seven, or eight children at once. I would love for them to follow us, because I think that’s the only way they can truly understand the work we do.”