Social Entrepreneur Spotlight: Maria Velazquez of Telpochcalli Community Education Project (Tcep)May 5, 2022
Telpochcalli Community Education Project (Tcep), a member of New Profit’s first Economic Mobility Cohort, mobilizes youth and adults for social justice work by building individual capacity, collective power, and mutual responsibility through culturally relevant and community-directed education, leadership development, and organizing.
To help us get closer to Tcep’s work, Executive Director Maria Velazquez took the time to share more about the ways her organization empowers families and the “beautiful dance” effective collaboration generates.
Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
A: I am a leader who advocates for collective and humble leadership. I believe that change happens when we come together, build intentional purpose and vision, build awareness and critical thinking, and take action collectively with others. I am very intentional about walking my talk. For this to happen, I need a lot of support from the community. I need to be reachable and accessible to them. I need to be humble, engaging, and trustworthy. I need to have an open heart, big ears, and be continually reflecting on my experience. I need to ask for help many times, and I also need to say I am sorry when I am not right or make mistakes. It’s like dancing and continuing to work together until we all can dance together in an organized way, respecting the dance and movements of everyone. Together we make a beautiful dance.
Q: What is the one thing you wish more people knew about the issue your organization is working to solve?
A: Issue: Access to Opportunities and Information – It has been such an incredible experience to see what people can do, how they transform their lives, what they are capable of achieving in their person, in their family, and in their community by having accessible tools, factual information, resources, receive necessary time and attention, and unconditional support that is culturally and linguistically supported with trust, faith, and genuine conversations.
I need to be humble, engaging, and trustworthy. I need to have an open heart, big ears, and be continually reflecting on my experience. I need to ask for help many times, and I also need to say I am sorry when I am not right or make mistakes. It’s like dancing and continuing to work together until we all can dance together in an organized way, respecting the dance and movements of everyone. Together we make a beautiful dance.
Q: What would have to be true for the work that you do to not be needed?
A: Families will no longer need Tcep when they are no longer paralyzed by injustice and fear; when families feel capable, acknowledge their power within, raise their awareness, and collectively come together and built trust and confidence; when families feel entitled to know and the right to live with dignity; when families question and are curious to know more. When families get to this, Tcep has fulfilled its mission and purpose.
After some time to process the information written above, a new revelation came to me: as long as there are injustices, discrimination, economic disparities, abuse of power, and inequity, Tcep needs to exist. Policies need to be created in a way to support all people, and not just a few. It made me think that in what I wrote before, I put the responsibility on the families we serve. It is interesting that deep inside of me, it still comes out as I (or we) are guilty of the circumstances we live in and the injustices we go through every day, which is not true. As I continue to do my best and take the time to reflect on my being and my beliefs to find my true self this is just a small example of how oppression is internalized and becomes part of who we are and what we believe. It’s okay that we continue learning.
Q: What has been the most fulfilling part of the work that you do?
A: Families create a support system that enables them to transform their lives and build trust for new possibilities and the belief that they have the right to dream and move forward to fulfill their goals. Families that become informed about services and resources, increase their communication and computer literacy skills, share their learning and experiences with their children and others, are no longer paralyzed by fear. Personally, experiencing and seeing families’ progression and transformation makes me believe that we as people can contribute to a better world. It’s hard but we are doing it on a smaller scale with the hope that our children will take it on and continue building where we left off.
To get closer to Telpochcalli Community Education Project, visit their website, see their community in action, and listen to some youth leaders discuss why Tcep’s work is important to them. Learn more about why Economic Mobility is a key investment area for New Profit here.