Immaculate Ferreria-Allah grew up in Sumner, in rural Pierce County, where she’s also raising her three youngest children.
It’s the place where her father, Gregorio, a migrant farmworker, bought a house in 1942. There her father grew food and sold it in Seattle’s International District. And he led the family by example. She remembers him saying to her, one time, “I may be poor, but I am rich in value.”
She got involved with the Children’s Alliance when her daughter Yanava was enrolled in a local state-funded Early Childhood Education and Assistance program.
“She was an ECEAP kid,” says Immaculate, a label that others would use as a word of criticism. Immaculate didn’t worry about what other people said. She knew that words hurled from the outside didn’t change who a person was inside.
Immaculate had faced the bullying and ostracism of a child of color growing up in an all-white community. Her parents, first generation immigrants from the Philippines, didn’t know how to respond. In the hard school years—including the first four years of grade school, when she was in foster care—Immaculate remembers trying to fit in with the very people who mistreated her.
She doesn’t do that anymore. Now, she hears and often proudly wears one word people have used against her: troublemaker.
If a person who speaks up for the needs of kids and families in her area and across the state—with special attention on children of color—is making trouble, Immaculate says the shoe fits.
She found fellow troublemakers at Advocacy Camp in 2012. She met people there who were also talking about the impact of racial inequality on families and children. That’s why she comes back, over and over, to advocate with the Children’s Alliance.
“After Advocacy Camp, I felt better about people saying I was making trouble,” she says. “To me, it means I am making progress.”
Every year, Immaculate brings her three beautiful children to the Capitol steps at the Children’s Alliance Have a Heart for Kids Day event. They are enthusiastic participants: making their own signs, writing their own speeches, leading chants at the rally. “I have so many proud mama moments” in the course of this advocacy, she says.
“The Children’s Alliance has helped our family grow so much. Our values are aligned. It’s so valuable to be welcomed by this organization.”
Each of Immaculate’s children demonstrates enormous leadership at school and in their activism. Yanava, age 14, eldest of her three closest siblings—Immaculate and her husband have nine children total in their blended family—is entering 9th grade at an elite Tacoma private school this fall. She earned a College Bound scholarship. Zonta, age 7, is first grade Student Council ambassador at her elementary school. Quhaar, age 10, initiates the family’s engagement in public protest. When he hears about injustice, he asks, “Mama, what are we going to do about that?”
Like Yanava, Quhaar and Zonta are also “ECEAP kids.” Immaculate credits ECEAP with much of their healthy development.
“It’s really important to raise these well-rounded children who could be running the world someday,” she says. “I want them to know that we care for others—not just for those in our home but everywhere. We all live here, we have responsibilities to one another.”