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Member & Activist Spotlight

'One incident stands out the most'

Toni Mejias is a Secretary in Prince Georges County, Maryland
Toni Mejias
Published: June 30, 2023

After I left the corporate world and began working in education as an administrative assistant, I became sort of a liaison to the Hispanic community for my school in the Washington, D.C., area – and often I was able to help students and families. It made the work so rewarding.

But one incident stands out the most.

The parent of a student at our school in Berwyn Heights, Md., was going to lose her home, and when she contacted me, because I had a background in real estate, I knew that the company trying to force her out had not taken the action properly.

I informed her attorney about the steps they missed, and she won the case and kept her home.

I often was able to help students and families navigate the school or the related services – sometimes as the only Spanish-speaking person available and someone who understood the struggles people faced.

Beyond the language skills, however, I discovered that I was good at finding solutions for people and educating them so that they could find ways to get the most out of the school system and resources in the community. I enjoyed using those skills, and those skills then applied to my work in the union.

Initially, I didn’t know much about the NEA or my local, but a colleague kept asking me to attend meetings and my interest grew. That led to me attending my first NEA ESP Conference about nine years ago and getting involved in the Maryland State Education Association – and was sold after that.

I knew I wanted to learn more about how to give my students and colleagues a greater voice – and teach them some of the skills I learned. The one-on-one discussions I had and the information from the workshops were so inspiring to me that I went on to complete the NEA ESP Leaders for Tomorrow program and have advanced in my career in education. Now I work with the district’s Office of Equity and Excellence working with staff professional development.

Similarly, I have gone on to serve in several capacities as a member of the Board of Directors for MSEA, the MSEA HCR Committee and on the MSEA Educators of Color Task Force, where I am co-chair of the retention subcommittee.

That spark from helping students and finding solutions for them and families early in my education career lit a flame that has led me to better appreciate the skills I have to lead and the desire I have to help educators and students also reach their full potential.

National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.