News - Carlos Rosario School Honors Its Founders

Founders’ Day (October 24th) is when the Carlos Rosario School celebrates the legacy and work of its founders, Sonia Gutierrez and Carlos Manuel Rosario, who helped to establish the adult education institution.

The school celebrates these two important people on Carlos Rosario’s birthday every year. This year, both were honored through a slideshow playing on the IPTVs, PA announcements, and an interactive informational table on their history at the library. Carlos Rosario School CEO Allison Kokkoros, staff, faculty and the student government joined the Founder, Sonia Gutierrez, at the bistro of the Campus named in her honor.

Founders’ Day is a time to recognize Rosario and Gutierrez for their efforts to better the lives of adult immigrants through education and to take pride in their achievements. Our founders represented a woman and man of imagination and courage. They had a great idea to improve the lives and the futures of adult immigrants in Washington, D.C. They understood the power of individual action, worked hard beyond the difficulties of their day, and took action to change adult immigrants’ education in Washington, D.C.

Both Sonia Gutierrez and Carlos Manuel Rosario were born in Puerto Rico. The two worked at the Program of English Instruction for Latin Americans (PEILA), which later became the Carlos Rosario School. Remembering Carlos Rosario in his birthday celebration, Sonia Gutierrez said, “He was a big man with such a love for a community. He is my mentor.” When Carlos Rosario started PEILA, he hired Gutierrez as principal to direct the program.

Sonia Gutierrez recounted the ups and downs following the birth of PEILA in 1970. She spoke about how Carlos Rosario and Marcelo Fernandez, its first director, worked hard to establish bilingual education in D.C. She highlighted accomplishments achieved through mass demonstrations in immigrants and civil rights movements. At PEILA, she transformed a small English language program into a large adult education center.

After the death of Carlos Rosario in 1987, Gutierrez carried on his legacy. She survived the crisis that led to the school’s shutdown in 1996-1997 due to financial problems that took away all D.C. Public School Adult Education funding. “It was like a death,” she said. During this time, Gutierrez worked hard to reopen the school. “We searched everywhere, even through churches, for a school rental, until we found a stinky basement in Chinatown,” she added. Thanks to her leadership, the Carlos Rosario School became the first adult public charter school in the U.S. in 1998.

Today, more than 70,000 adult immigrant students have received an education at the school.

Learn more about our school founders here.