Making connections |

Making connections

SUMMIT COUNTY – It’s not easy to be a parent, but it can be even more difficult when you don’t speak the language spoken at your child’s school – as is the case for a number of local Latino parents.

Sometimes Latino parents are too intimidated to become involved with the schools simply because they don’t speak English, according to Leslie Day, the school district’s bilingual counselor, and her assistant Antonieta Butler, a native of Argentina. Latino mothers may feel further isolated because they often stay at home to take care of the children, they said.

Day started a program called Mamacitas at Dillon Valley Elementary School last year in an effort to give Latino mothers a connection with the school. Mamacitas is a support group for Latino mothers with children at Dillon Valley and Silverthorne elementary schools.

“It’s not like we don’t want guys in the meeting – it’s just that they don’t come,” Butler said.

The group meets every other Thursday evening to discuss topics ranging from cultural to parenting issues. Sometimes they talk about the transition of moving from one’s native country to a new culture. Other times, they share ideas with each other on how to be better parents or how to help their children do homework that’s in English.

While the mothers’ primary interests are focused on helping their children succeed in school, Mamacitas also has provided the women with a social network.

“These women have formed some really spectacular friendships with each other,” said Sarah Vaine, who has worked with Mamacitas as a facilitator and a counselor. “So we’ve found out they’re helping each other with child care and different kinds of issues outside of the group.”

It’s not only the mothers in Mamacitas who are learning from each other. The women’s strength and determination to help their children succeed at school has been an inspiration, Vaine said.

“They’re just a great group of parents – caring, concerned parents,” she said. “I feel like I’ve learned about different cultures, different countries, and I’ve gotten a lot of strength from these mothers.”

There are Latino parenting groups similar to Mamacitas at Upper Blue Elementary and Summit High School as well.

The Upper Blue group – Amigas Latinas – differs from Mamacitas, however, in that there are English-speaking mothers who also attend the meetings. The Spanish- and English-speaking mothers meet from 9 to 11 a.m. every Thursday morning to help each other understand their cultures and learn each other’s languages, Butler said.

Latino parents’ intimidation might increase once their children enter high school. Some only become involved with the school if officials call to notify them of a child’s negative behavior, Day said.

Day started the Latino Parent Group at the high school, on alternating Wednesday evenings, to counteract the negative relationships and build positive relationships between the parents, the school and the students.

Parent-child dynamics can become confused when the child is bilingual and his or her parents speak only their native language, Day said. Sometimes that situation is exacerbated as the child works to meld with the Anglo culture while discarding the Latino culture.

The high school group focuses specifically on adolescent issues, such as drinking, drugs and children asserting their independence. Both mothers and fathers participate in the high school support group.

Officials hope to have Latino support groups at all the district’s schools eventually, Butler said.

For more information about the Latino parent groups, contact Leslie Day at (970) 389-7475 or Antonieta Butler at (970) 547-9040, or contact the schools.

Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or

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