​Principal Góngora of Decker Middle School in Manor Meet Principal Alejandro Góngora
 

03.19.2015 | EDUCATION ACCOMPLISHMENTS, MAKES AUSTIN GREATER, MIDDLE SCHOOL MATTERS, SUCCESS STORIES, YOUNG LEADERS SOCIETY

“On Time, On Task and On a Mission.” These are the words that are displayed in the Decker Middle School hallway and echoed through the leadership practices of Principal Alejandro Góngora.

Decker Middle School is located in the Manor area in Austin, Far East on 290. This campus is considered low-SES and more than 80 percent of Decker students receive free or reduced lunch

Góngora, originally from Flushing Queens, New York, has worked in education for 15 years. He earned his undergraduate degree from The University of Texas at Austin and is currently part of the cooperative superintendent program there.

Principal Góngora previously taught at Oak Meadows Elementary, which feeds into Decker Middle School. Coincidentally, he has had dozens of the same students for many years.

“I’ve known some of these kids since they were in kindergarten, so they know I’m invested. I do feel that the majority of my students understand that I do care about them and love them.”

When asked about his leadership style, Góngora said, “I make [emotional] deposits with my students… I talk to them. I work with them. When tough moments arise, I help. When they are ready, we talk. I’ve known some of these kids since they were in kindergarten, so they know I’m invested. I do feel that the majority of my students understand that I do care about them and love them.”

Principal Góngora is a native Spanish speaker and is able to effectively communicate with many ESL students and parents. He communicates everything in both languages and uses his language skills every day as one of the few bilingual administrators in the district.

But language isn’t the only barrier Decker students face. For many, issues that start outside of school walls can impact academic success within them. A lack of financial security and food stability can impact a student’s ability to focus. Some students are exposed to even heavier issues, including family issues and social pressure to participate in gang-related activity.

Principal Góngora is able to relate to his students and draw on his personal experience.

“Working with a low-income area of minority students, I have no problem telling parents and students, that they are a statistic, they aren’t meant to go to college, meant to graduate necessarily, they are considered ‘at risk.’ All of these factors that are statistically up against them, but they shouldn’t let those things define them or determine where they go. I’m a perfect example of that. I’m low-income. Spanish is my first language. My father was arrested when I was a sophomore I high school and he was sentenced to 18 years in a federal correctional institution. I’m that kid that shouldn’t have graduated.”

Góngora openly shares his story with students and shows them a picture of his father wearing his federal correctional institution uniform. His hope is that he can deter a student from going down that path.

“I hope that my students see themselves in me, because I see myself in them.”

“I hope that my students see themselves in me, because I see myself in them.”

At United Way for Greater Austin, we invest in target campuses including Decker Middle School, because we know that adolescence is a pivotal time in a student’s life. Our Target Graduation program helps students navigate the complex web of social services that are available to ensure that they get the help they need and are able to meet their full academic potential.

“UWATX involvement speaks to the needs of our campus and our community. UWATX helps support kids and help to get their fundamental needs met. If it wasn’t for the work they do, some of our kids would have given up and thrown in the towel and gone down a different path…Sometimes our kids don’t have positive role models, so UWATX brings that in so our kids have other people to relate to who are invested in their lives.”

We are proud to play a supporting role that enables students to stay on the path to success and to work with inspiring educators like Alejandro Góngora who make Austin Greater!

Interested in making a difference in the life of a middle school student? Learn more about our Young Leaders Society, the impact of your contribution and volunteer opportunities!
 

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