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Catholic Schools Week 2015 - For Our Community

Voices of Hope from School "Ambassadors" Resound for Latino Families

The community around St. Benedict's School–including the Latino community–appreciates the values of families and the voices of authoritative, experienced individuals who experience the benefits of Catholic schools. St. Benedict's, located in Blue Island, Ill., near Chicago, lets its light shine through parents such as Roberto Reyes, who brings hope to his community as one of the school's "parent ambassadors."  

Through the “parent ambassadors” group at St. Benedict’s School in Blue Island, Ill., Latino parents have been invited to play a growing part in supporting the school, and building bridges between the school and the local community. Particular progress is being made in the school’s connections with the Latino community. 

Roberto Reyes, one of the parent ambassadors, is also called one of the school’s “padrinos” (Spanish for “godfathers”). The idea of having “padrinos” and  “madrinas” (“godmothers”) assisting a school principal in outreach to—and mentoring of—Latino families who are newcomers to the school is among the insights offered in ACE’s Catholic School Advantage campaign.

A padrino’s invitation to become more involved in the school—perhaps to enroll one’s child—can help make the diverse people of a community more comfortable with each other in general, says Roberto. The school “is a good place where you can get to meet people of different kinds, not only ethnically but professionally—from construction workers to bankers and lawyers.”

“We tell them, ‘if you want to see your kid grow up in a better environment and be a better person, doing something better for the community,” a good education at St. Benedict’s can make students more likely to graduate high school and get into college,” Roberto comments.

Importantly, the “godparent” relationship does not end once a child is successfully recruited into the school. St. Benedict’s principal Susan Rys says she asks the madrinas and padrinos to stay in a mentoring relationship with the newly enrolled families for a year.

A network of enduring ties in which people learn about each other’s cultures and lives is being expanded at St. Benedict’s. “People understand that the parish thinks about them,” says Reyes, who works for the parish as maintenance person for the school. “We are creating a big relationship with the town that everybody benefits from.”

This story first appeared on January 30, 2012, when Roberto Reyes was parent of a fifth grader and a sixth grader at St. Benedict’s School. He worked on the maintenance staff of the parish. He was a Parent Ambassador assisting principal Susan Rys. He also served as a “padrino”--or godfather--in the school’s efforts to welcome more students from the Latino community and other groups and to help newcomer families learn more about the school. More details can be found in this earlier post.