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Making the Grade

JULIE SUTOR
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk Patricia Cruz
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Patty Cruz directs the Familias Unidas program at Summit County’s Family and Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC) in Dillon. She works with the families of Hispanic children, ages 3-5, through home visits, group meetings, resource referrals, screenings and social and recreational activities.Inspiration: I remember how good, caring teachers made a big difference in my life.Women in Mexico don’t have the same opportunities as men, but I had a middle school teacher who was always so encouraging – telling us that we didn’t have to do things the traditional way, that we could change our lives by not thinking that was the way it had to be, that we had the opportunity to do so much if we just put our minds to it.She didn’t just teach us the curriculum; she always went further.

Motivation: The goal of Familias Unidas is to help parents give their children the best possible start in life by fostering strong, loving parent-child relationships, so I work with families that need and like the help we give them. I get to participate in all the fun activities, like swimming, rock-climbing and trips to the zoo.I enjoy helping my Latino community. It’s motivating to see how the families in my program take advantage of the resources we offer to learn parenting skills and how that makes a difference in children’s lives.I once had a new family that didn’t know what opportunities were available and weren’t involved in any activities. After I started working with them, the mom started taking ESL classes and found a job. The parents put the daughter in preschool and enrolled her in ballet classes and ski lessons. They were really trying different things and looking for opportunities for their daughter.I also enjoy working for an agency like the FIRC that cares for me as a person.

Philosophy: Parents are the first and most important teachers for a child.Modern challenges: It can be tough for me to teach families how to understand and integrate into a new culture without losing their own roots.Accomplishments: Being a mom and a wife while being able to love my work.

Role model: Any immigrant that is able to be successful as a person (not just economically) and continue his or her education in a foreign country.If I had $100,000: I would spend it on a bilingual preschool, so that American and Spanish-speaking kids could have their first interactions in both languages. Here in the U.S., you only speak one language. We can start changing that with preschoolers.Extracurricular: I love to dance to Latin music and to cook.


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