Tina Alejo never aspired to leadership, but the educator and community organizer had a clear vision of bilingualism and biculturalism, values that she is committed to realizing for Filipino Americans growing up in San Francisco. From the time Alejo immigrated with her family to the United States at the age of 16, she was frequently traveling back and forth between the Bay Area and her native Philippines, where she attended college, met her husband, and spent her childrens early years.
After majoring in psychology and doing graduate work in child development, Alejo taught social sciences to community health majors at a Filipino university, an assignment that involved her in establishing a neighborhood childcare center. Because of that background, and because of her commitment to raising her children with a Filipino consciousness after the familys return to the United States, Alejo ended up at the center of a political battle with San Franciscos school district over the fate of a small bilingual program for newcomer Filipino students.
Alejos daughter was attending San Franciscos Filipino Education Center, the countrys only Filipino bilingual educational program. Impressed with the schools dual focus on offering culturally sensitive curriculum and promoting assimilation, Alejo was among the leaders of a campaign to save the program from the budget ax and, indeed, expand it from K-5 to K-12. In the midst of that campaign, Alejo became a tutor and teacher in FECs after-school program. One ultimately successful focus of the campaign became maintaining the schools site in the face of a district decision to move the after-school program to a nearby school. After obtaining funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the parents successfully negotiated a return to the original program site.
By that time Alejo not only had become the programs coordinator, she was also a community spokesperson for a vision of the South of Market area as a hometown for area Filipinos. As I got involved more deeply, I saw it was not only an FEC issue, it was a Filipino American issue of maintaining a social and cultural landmark in the South of Market area, and a place where Filipino Americans can gain their strength and reaffirm their identity, said Alejo. My background as a community worker and teacher helped crystallize this vision. Im basically a grassroots person. My strength comes from the people I work with.
Alejo became a Wildflowers fellow in 2003.