Principal Morales-Figueroa: Fulfilling Her Grandmother’s Legacy

Story and photos by Jan Osborn.

United to Learn (U2L), a Dallas-based nonprofit that partners with Dallas ISD elementary schools to accelerate student achievement and grow purposeful leaders, is helping 49 Dallas ISD elementary schools gear up for the new school year by fulfilling teachers’ supply requests through their annual Learning Launch program. The program, which is Dallas’ only back-to-school supply drive that provides schools with teacher-requested learning resources and tools, alleviates the financial and time burden of teachers and administrators who typically spend an average of $600 of their own money annually! Learning Launch equips Dallas elementary schools and classrooms for the first day of school and beyond.

One of the elementary schools that received support from United to Learn is Pershing Elementary School. We spoke with Principal Dr. Morales-Figueroa about her journey in education and how United to Learn helps support her vision for her school.

Would you share your story of why you decided to get into education? And, what inspires you to continue your journey?

My story started when I was very young, in Puerto Rico. Growing up as the only child in a very modest family, I was always accompanied by my grandmother because my mother needed to work. Geraldina Miranda and Melendez (this is how she always said her name) was the most caring, kind, smart, and educated human being that I have ever known. Despite her lack of education, she always made sure that the people she knew were supported. She left me a legacy:  she constantly reminded me of the importance of education. While we walked to school every day for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon, she always asked me, “How was school today? Did you have fun learning?”  She also said, “Remember, you must have an education. You need to help others.”


I could not tell my grandma “no”; of course I was going to do what she inspired me to do:  get an education, work very hard, and be proud of my heritage by showcasing my skills and by being the best version of me possible.

My first teaching “job” was when I was 10; I was in charge of a younger group of kids during my catechism class. Along with my guitar, I used to sing songs after teaching kids about kindness and love for others. I loved my little kids and I loved teaching. I enjoyed getting to know them and becoming a family. Then, at the age of 18, I had the extraordinary opportunity to teach adults that couldn’t complete a degree or even a career. I started teaching sales and business administration. Wow, I remember Don Jose or Mr. Jose. He was a 58-year-old man that was trying to get a better life for his family. What an experience! I was the youngest of the group. I think that back then I didn’t know what I was doing. Well, something I did know: share the knowledge, share your passion for learning.

What was your catalyst for becoming a Principal? Is there a specific story or event that propelled you to want to become a Principal?

I remember thinking about how I was impacting a group of kids and growing children and how much I enjoyed it. Why not impact more children? 

I had come from academia before moving to Dallas. I had been an academic affairs dean and I was able to impact the larger system. Why not do the same thing here? In my journey, I met a principal that made a huge impact on me and she gave me the opportunity to grow. 


I wanted to not only impact kids but also adults. I wanted each of them to be better citizens in our society. I had a PhD but I knew I had to go back to school to become a principal.  I went to UTA for their Principal program and had a spectacular professor. 

After that experience, I became an assistant principal.  At my first assistant principal job, I had the lowest academic school in the district. We made tremendous progress in reading, writing, and science. It was a wonderful experience. And then I became a principal. I have always worked in a low-socioeconomic community. This is what I always wanted to do: help others.



Tell us about your United to Learn Learning Launch project and how this project impacts your learning community?

I love United to Learn! They are our angels. When I say that, I mean it: I never knew there was an organization that could look at schools like they look at us. They are our partners and we stick together and collaborate. They help us identify what we need. And help us so we can also celebrate!

United to Learn gives us the opportunity to think creatively to identify solutions. They know our needs and they adapt to those needs. They also bring in other partners and businesses that support our school. 

When Covid started, our needs changed. Even though U2L was going through it too, they were still able to deliver for us. They always see us. And often think of areas that we didn’t even think of. They know our needs and what we need to be successful. 

One of the ways U2L is supporting us this year is bringing AVID to our campus. This is a program that helps teach our students to be successful at college. AVID will help our students learn how to take notes, journal, organize themselves and improve their writing skills.

Why do you feel organizations like United to Learn are important for our local schools?

Organizations like United to Learn are so important. They give us the support that we need. Growing a child is beyond academics. United to Learn can help in other areas beyond academics. 

For more information about United to Learn, go to

Dr. Morales-Figueroa with her team, Brooke Wilson, Ada Llanos, Carol Vásquez and Melissa Roberts.

As a 99% low socio-economic campus we sometimes face challenges meeting the needs of our children (clothes, food, shelter, electricity, water). United to Learn helps us not just by giving us those items but also connecting us to other programs and partners that can meet the needs of our families. This is so important because when we are working with an individual, we know they can’t learn if their basic needs haven’t been met. 

These organizations are our partners so each student can come to school ready. They help us meet human needs!

What is your vision for your Elementary School five years from today? 

I am a dreamer! We are going to become the first STEAM collegiate academy in Dallas ISD. We are going to increase our enrollment to provide more children around the metroplex with the chance to experience the most innovative 21st-century education possible.  Our goal is to create leaders who will continuously evolve and become contributors as individuals to our society by improving the quality of life of their families and our community.

For more information about United to Learn, go to

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