Valer⁠i⁠a Gurr

January 26, 2023

January 26, 2023

“I never really believed that I was smart enough to go to college growing up. I was born and raised by a single mom in Chile and was a very disadvantaged student. For most of my primary education, I was overlooked and ignored, which gave me a poor view of my own capabilities. In high school, I was fortunate enough to meet some other students who transformed how I saw myself. When I realized what I was capable of, everything changed. I went to a Catholic university in Chile and came up to the U.S. as part of an exchange program where I worked through the summer to pay for school.”

“When I finally moved to Las Vegas to attend University of Nevada, Las Vegas for grad school, I started to see that the same problems that contributed to my challenges growing up in Chile were also happening in the United States. This was shocking to me because I grew up thinking this was the greatest country on Earth, that it must have everything figured out. And this is a great country, but there are a lot of problems in K-12 education. Many schools are overcrowded and teachers are overwhelmed, particularly in poorer communities.” 

“Before I came to work for the American Federation for Children (AFC), I worked in the teacher’s union trying to make headway in getting Hispanic students and those living in disadvantaged areas better access to education. The idea of school choice resonated with me long before I even understood what it was. So when I finally got an offer to work for AFC as their director of External Affairs, I jumped at the opportunity.”

“One of the unique things about the U.S. is that every state is different in how it approaches school choice. Some states have more options than others, but one of the problems across the board is that many of the families that benefit the most from school choice aren’t aware of the opportunities available to them. Much of my work has been in connecting local school choice advocates in the Hispanic communities in different states and working to translate and clarify how Hispanic families can access school choice opportunities.” 

“In my own state of Nevada, I have worked very hard to establish a program called Opportunity Scholarship that helps some of the most underserved students in the state access scholarships to attend private schools. It is incredible hearing the stories of students who grew up like me who have unlocked a better future due to school choice.” 

“Oftentimes the narrative is that we either need to support school choice or public schools, but I don’t believe that’s true. It’s about putting the student first and giving parents options. For some, the best choice is a public school. For others, it’s not. Although it’s been an uphill battle, I believe my advocacy has helped change hearts and minds. Whether it’s through media appearances, articles or just conversations, I get to see eyes opened to how school choice can change a child’s whole life through equitable and inclusive opportunities.” 

“Now as a senior fellow at the American Federation for Children and as a Ph.D. candidate in public policy at UNLV, I will continue to fight for student choice and opportunity in the communities that need it most.”

Valeria Gurr
Las Vegas, Nevada

Valeria Gurr is a senior fellow at the American Federation for Children and an advocate for school choice policy and education for Hispanic communities across the United States.