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ELM Parent Models Determination and Commitment

Ericka Cortez, the mother of two daughters, discovered ELM through a friend. “I went to one of the concerts at Pickleweed. When the children’s chorus sang ‘La Bruja’ my daughter fell in love with the program, right there. She knew the song and wanted to join. I talked to my friend and we went on the wait list,” she recounts, “As I came to learn, ELM would embrace the entire family, including me.”

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Now, Ericka’s 11-year-old daughter Xophia plays clarinet, and Valentina, aged 8 has begun the violin. She continued, “The teachers are very patient and the amount of time the children are exposed to the instrument is so rich. I am so grateful that my daughters are in this program because music education will help them throughout life.” 

Ericka is also grateful for the sense of community that develops among the ELM parents. She joined other parents to learn the ukulele through the family music program. “Learning an instrument provided me with the opportunity to see how challenging and rewarding it is to learn an instrument. As parents, we often assume that our children can do anything, but being a parent, when I sit down to practice, I try to think like a role model.”


Ericka came from Mexico to Marin fourteen years ago. She’d taken English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in Mexico to advance from her secretarial position, but found it difficult to learn fluency, with no one to practice with outside the academy. Two years ago, she decided to take an ESL class at the College of Marin and a counselor there suggested that Ericka take more classes. She chose Ethnic Studies and History.

At about that time, she began listening to KPFA radio to improve her English comprehension. That station proved to be a prophetic choice. She explained, “KPFA changed my life. I love politics so it was the perfect station for me. My major is now Political Science. I am in my last semester at College of Marin and I’ve applied to local universities like Dominican, UC Berkeley, SF State and Sonoma. I want to earn my BA and go on to law school.”

While Ericka may be soft-spoken and full of gratitude for the blessings in her life, she also possesses a solid strength. Pursuing an education at any age takes perseverance but returning to school as a 40-year-old and a mother, tossed added complications into the mix. She credits her upcoming graduation to her family’s belief in education and her husband’s continuous support, along with the many friends she’s met through ELM, “I could not have done it without the support of the ELM community.”

She pauses for a moment, then adds, “Ms. Jane embraces not just the children, but the parents, and everybody works so hard. She is so persistent, and she honors the community. I am so grateful my children have this program to expand their opportunities. Now, we have that home, with a variety of instruments, wonderful teachers. I feel we have been blessed.”