Sergio De La Mora is the visionary pastor of multigenerational, multicultural Cornerstone Church, the largest Latino-led church in the history of San Diego. He is co-founder of Turning the Hearts Center, a non-profit designed to empower youth and restore families.

Dr. Selena Contreras is Pastor De La Mora’s eldest child. She received her PhD in educational psychology from Arizona State University and serves her community as a school psychologist.

Dr. Andrea Ramirez, Executive Director of the Faith and Education Coalition-NHCLC recently invited Pastor De La Mora and Dr. Contreras to TBN’s Raising the Standards to discuss how parents and teachers can empower their student’s education by first addressing the needs of their hearts.

Pastor Sergio, you have said that “The course of a person’s life is always determined by the condition of a person’s heart.” Help us understand what you mean by that.

The Bible tells to guard our hearts above all else, because the condition of our hearts determines the course of our lives. If you want to know why people end up in the wrong place, it is because their heart was in the wrong place. I believe if we are going to recapture this generation, we will do it by capturing their hearts for Christ first. Whoever controls our hearts, controls our destiny.

When you think about the condition of a young student’s heart, how does that connect with the way they view education?

The “me I see” is the “me I will be.” If in my heart I don’t see myself as intelligent and capable, then when I go to class, I am going to feel like I can’t understand the concepts. If a student’s heart is in the right place and he has a healthy view of himself, he will walk into the classroom ready to learn. Parents and teachers have the power to help students believe in their capability.

This is a great segue into your work, Dr. Contreras. Tell us what parents need to know to help their children be successful students.

As a school psychologist, I often end up being the mediator between students and their parents. When the student and parent reach conclusions about each other’s behavior without communicating that leads to a lot of assumptions on both sides. I found that when the students and parents are willing to listen fully to each other real changes can happen.

Dr. Contreras, I want to talk about your PhD journey. How did you make it to the finish line?

When I was a young student, I was identified as someone who had the potential to be a first-generation college student. My teachers took an interest in me and made sure I was always aware of enrichment activities and programs that would prepare me for a future in higher education. I participated in organizations like Upward Bound and AVID; both programs focused on helping potential first-generation college students get into college since their families may not be familiar with the process. These positive influences in my life made me feel that college was a real possibility for me.

I know it was the Lord who carried me through graduate school. I felt so out of place when I first arrived, so I relied on the support of my family and friends back home to keep me encouraged. As I began my doctoral training, I knew my friends and family could only do so much. I would have to depend on the Lord wholeheartedly. I regularly reminded myself that everything I was doing was for him. That is what kept me going.

Pastor De La Mora, what encouragement can you give parents as they support their children in their education?

Every one of your children are anointed, blessed, intelligent, and fully capable. Speak those words of life over them. Bring it out of them. Pray it through them. Whatever you say they are, they will become. When you see them get off course, know this: God is watching and God is with them. Your time, prayers, and love are not in vain. Don’t give up! God’s best is yet to come for your children.

Guiding a Student’s Heart

H: Help students believe in their capability.
They are capable of more than they know – challenge children to try hard things!

E: Encourage students to depend on God.
Offer Scriptures they can hold on to when worried about academics or social life.

A: Allow students opportunities to lead themselves and others.
Students won’t know what they can do until they try.

R: Remind your student that choices are guided by our hearts.
Learning and loving are always an inside job!

T: Take time to pray with your student.
Give them the opportunity to thank God for progress and to leave their worries with Him.

[ This article is also available in español. ]