Minnie Ferguson is the Director of Education of Semillas Community Schools, a Mexican Indigenous, non-governmental, community-based, educational organization whose mission is to cultivate higher education and advance social justice as Indigenous Peoples. Ms. Ferguson’s commitment to education and social justice began early in her life. Ms. Ferguson was born in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico and migrated to Los Angeles at the age of six.
Ms. Ferguson’ maternal lineage is native Azteca of central Mexico and her father was an American expatriate living in Mexico after a tour of duty in World War I (yes one) originally from Missouri. Ideals and principles such as discipline, sacrifice, diligence, respect and humility were instilled in Ms. Ferguson since birth. In Mexico, Ms. Ferguson enrolled herself in school at the age of 4 by tagging along with her older sister at a time when the required age for inscription was 7. Raised by a single, migrant mother, Ms. Ferguson was raised in East Los Angeles until her graduation from high school at the top of her class and as student body president. Mrs. Ferguson then earned both a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Urban Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles. At the UCLA School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Ms. Ferguson was nominated for and awarded the Chancellor’s Award, a prestigious scholarship bestowed upon only two graduate students in each college by the University.
Throughout her experience at UCLA, Ms. Ferguson became a respected student organizer and peer tutor in both undergraduate and graduate studies. Originally intending to go to law school, Ms. Ferguson’s passion for her community drew her to the field of urban planning as a way to study broader perspectives on the social realities she had been raised to overcome. Education, however, was a dominant concern throughout Ms. Ferguson’s formative years.
Seeking a deeper sense of knowledge from her own cultural roots, Ms. Ferguson cultivated a circle of traditional Aztec dancers among her peers. Through this circle, Indigenous ways of knowing guided her personal and pedagogical formation. As an undergraduate student organizer, Ms. Ferguson began a student movement that within five years would reach statewide and even national impact. Culminating in an unprecedented student and community mobilization that paralyzed the UCLA campus during a dramatic 14-day student hunger strike in 1993, the UCLA Chicana and Chicano student movement’s strategic success was impactful for decades to come. Ms. Ferguson’s pivotal leadership of the student movement to establish a department of Chicana and Chicano Studies not only defined the student demand, but transformed the discipline’s epistemology and pedagogy as well.
After this life transforming experience, standard university coursework paled in comparison to the power of community building through transformative scholarship and organizing in the community itself. Following her graduation from UCLA, Ms. Ferguson’s passion focused upon the children of Los Angeles and the schools that they attend. For ten years, Ms. Ferguson developed a career in teaching migrant, undocumented children living in the shadows of Beverly Hills -- children who like her, spoke only Spanish at first.
With a decade of experience in the classroom and years more in community organizing, Ms. Ferguson and her husband, Marcos Aguilar, led a small group of parents and educators committed to opening an independent community based school where a child’s maternal language and culture would center their experience in formal schooling. Remembering the challenges she herself faced in the American educational system as an English Learner, Ms. Ferguson set out to create an alternative experience in education for migrant Indigenous children. In 2001, Ms. Ferguson co-founded Semillas’ first charter school, Academia Semillas del Pueblo Charter School (“Academia”), an IB World School and a highly innovative community-based learning center for the youth of East Los Angeles.
In 2008, Ms. Ferguson designed and co-founded Anahuacalmecac International University Preparatory High School of North America, a 9th through 12th grade charter school, which authorized by the Los Angeles Unified School District (“District”). Anahuacalmecac is a high quality public charter school, a model university preparatory program rooted in serving Indigenous students of Mexican origin and the first International Baccalaureate (“IB”) World School in the City of Los Angeles, California. Ms Ferguson also holds a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential and a Master’s in Educational Administration from the California State University, Los Angeles. Ms. Ferguson lives today with a husband, three children, three cats and three dogs in Los Angeles, California where her innate bond with animals has led her to rescue many a stray pet in her spare time.
Marcos Aguilar is co-founder and currently serves as Executive Director of Semillas Sociedad Civil. In 2001, he served as charter school developer for Escuelas Autonomas Dignidad, a community-based group of parents and educators where he was responsible for designing the curriculum, organizing strategist plans, community mobilization, budget management, and governmental relations. He also served as a bilingual single subject secondary teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District from 1994-2001. Mr. Aguilar received a Bachelor’s degree in Chicana & Chicano Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1994. Additionally, he holds both a single subject teaching credential in Social Science and a Masters in Education Administration from California State University, Los Angeles.