The Voice Box

In my Advocacy Era


By: Emilie Martin, NPU Center for Parent Voice


We’re just about a month removed from the NPU Convening and I have THOUGHTS.

I’ve been working for NPU since last summer, so of course I’ve heard talk of past  convenings. Of parents and caregivers and advocates coming together to bring their voices and their hard work to legislators and policymakers. So, I thought I had a good idea of what I was walking into. I did not. You can’t really know what an NPU convening is like until you’ve lived it. And let me tell you – it is an Experience.

In April, NPU brought two hundred parent leaders from 47 states to Washington, D.C. In three packed days, we attended advocacy workshops led by our incredible team on the Right to Read, understanding the impact of AI, and how the journey toward educational freedom is paved by the determination of parents and families. We heard from our Firestarter Speakers, who shared their journeys into the world of advocacy. During his keynote address, we felt seen when the U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, told us that being bilingual is a superpower. And when Rep. Auchincloss spoke to us about social media companies “social fracking” our children, we took that personally.

It was, perhaps, the second day of the convening that was the most powerful. Imagine 200 parent advocates making their way through Capitol Hill, stopping at the offices of their Senators and Representatives to talk to them about the literacy crisis in their state. Picture us, sitting in bilingual roundtables, or in a House Appropriations Committee Hearing with our new friend, Secretary Cardona, and at the NPU briefing on our Read to Rise campaign. On the last day of the convening, we were at the Department of Education for a series of learning sessions.


There is power in numbers and strength in community. On those days at the Capitol and the DOE, it didn’t matter if you were a brand new advocate or if you’ve been advocating for years, you were part of something bigger than you could have imagined before you arrived two days earlier. You were heard, you were supported, and you were powerful.

We ate together, laughed together, cried together, and danced together. We were joyful even in the face of adversity and so hopeful for what we can accomplish together in the future. We were invigorated and energized, and we returned to our communities with renewed spirits, new ideas, and new tools for the fight.

There are days now when I wonder what exactly I was doing with my life before last June. Whatever it was, I never saw my future self doing this.

Two years ago, I was four years into an administrative job, in a toxic office where my voice was silenced and my spirit was consistently stepped on. Something had to give. When my one-person department was restructured and my position was eliminated, I’m pretty sure I was supposed to be upset. But, at that moment, I’d never been more relieved.

Having not been born independently wealthy, however, it wasn’t long before I had to find a job again. I could have found another administrative job, but I could no longer stomach the idea of endless days in a soulless cubicle. The only thing I knew with absolute certainty is that I didn’t want another job. I wanted to do work that meant something, that I could be proud of. I wanted to feel like I’d done something good at the end of the day.

That’s where Keri came in.

(Disclaimer – I’ve known Keri since we were teenagers. She likes to say that back then she was organizing girls to fight, and she’s not wrong. She was a terrible influence.)

By now, we all know who Keri Rodrigues Langan is. And, if you don’t, go find her bio on our website, Google her name, find her story before you continue reading. Go on. I’ll wait.

Okay, now that we’re all on the same page about the notorious KRL, the five-foot nothing dynamo that brought us all together, you know she is vibrant and engaging, with a commanding presence that belies her stature. She is a force to be reckoned with, and when she offered to sit down with me to help me figure out my next step, I jumped at the chance. If nothing else, I knew I would come out of it with new perspectives on my situation. Turns out, I came out with so much more.

I left that conversation inspired, and with an opportunity to work for NPU. I haven’t looked back since.

I work with some of the most amazing, passionate people I’ve ever met, and I am constantly awestruck by their brilliance. Even recently, I’ve joked that I was grateful that no one has figured out that I’m nowhere near their level, but the truth is, of course I am. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t, and I know that now. And it was because of this amazing team and their constant encouragement, validation, support, and recognition for good work that got me to see that.

When toxicity is all you know, trusting authenticity takes time. Building trust and learning to trust yourself is a process, and it is not always an easy one. Needing a village doesn’t end at adulthood – all of us need the unwavering support and embrace of a community. How lucky are we all to have found that here?

That’s what we do at NPU. We inspire and uplift, we give microphones to parent voices, and bring tables and chairs to spaces that claim they have no room for us. Whether you’re a staff member, a partner, an affiliate, an individual member, or not a member at all yet, we will stand with you.

I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it: this is the best work I’ve ever done and I can’t wait to see what we do next.