Iveth Monterrosa is a parent of two children attending Wolfe Street Academy in Baltimore, MD. She is also the PTO president and has shown important leadership on behalf of the school and its families, more than 80% of whom are Latino.
In this interview with Colorín Colorado, featured in our Community Schools and ELLs video project, Iveth talks about the many ways the school has supported her family, discusses her increased involvement in the PTO, and shares the goals she and her husband share for their children’s future.
Bonus: Hear more about Iveth’s leadership from Wolfe Street Academy Principal Mark Gaither!
To meet Iveth and her family in action, take a look at our video about Wolfe Street Academy!
[This transcript is translated from the original in Spanish.]
Why we chose Wolfe Street Academy
We have a daughter in third grade, nine years old, and she likes the after-school program because is learning chess, she likes math, and sometimes she likes lunch, sometimes not. And we have a son in kindergarten, and he says he likes everything.
We decided to move to this neighborhood because it's a small school and we felt comfortable. It is close to our house. The neighborhood is very safe. And there a lot of activities that we relate to, as Hispanics or Latinos. So this helps our children, to see our roots.
Morning meeting at the school
In the mornings it's really nice to arrive when the principal is waiting for us at the door and saying "Good morning." And then every time that I come to the school for something, they always have an answer for what I need. I feel that they help me. And there is always someone there, in case I don't understand, to translate.
Every day, the principal or sometimes someone else if he is absent, makes the daily announcements or upcoming announcements. And in the morning, the PTO sells, we try to sell hot chocolate, atoles, tamales, donuts, cookies, and what we collect we use sometimes to buy materials for activities, or toys for gym, and for the school's most important event, Wolfe Fest, at the end of the year, where there are lots of games, there are performances. It's a festival. It's a great day for everyone, parents and kids.
Becoming PTO president
During the first year that my daughter came here, I was a little shy. But the second year I began to jump in and help. Then at Wolfe Fest, I started helping, and then they said, I put a table with handmade crafts, selling them. So another mom saw that I was interested and saw that I wanted to help.
And she said, "What do you think? The parents think it could be you." So then there was the election and they elected me vice president. Then I moved up to president. So, I'm there now, trying to give my time as a volunteer, helping. Many people in the school, many parents can't write, so I at least try to help them with that. And people reach out to me because they I know that I might have an answer. And if I don't have it, we find someone who does.
How Wolfe Street helps families
At this school, there are programs that give us food, bags of food, approximately $40 or $50 within the bag and a bag per family. Sometimes, twice a year there is a day where you can choose clothes.
The family can come and choose the clothes they need. And then also for Christmas, a family adopts a family from Wolfe and gives them what the child wants. The most important thing is that, as you know the school is 80% Latino, they always keep in mind our heritage and try to make us feel at home. In other schools, it's different.
There is no access for the parents to come or do activities. Many schools don't have an after-school program, like the one here that is totally free. So I would have to pay for someone to pick up my kids. There is not so much information, sometimes in Spanish and English.
Also, they don't meetings like here in the morning that all the parents can come see everyone's faces and see all of the kids. Or be able to reach out to the principal or teachers daily.
So it's nothing more than every day, the kids come to school, to class, and finishing on Friday, "We will see you on Monday." And it's just like that, there is not any involvement between parents, the school and kids.
It's just teachers and kids, that's all. And the parents that are there are there to drop their kids off but there isn't any involvement beyond that. So there is no accessibility that they can come to the school to ask for something. Or say, "Can you help me with this appointment? Can you help me with the copy I need?" The school is simply there for the child.
How Wolfe Street helps with parenting
And the discipline, it's going well. I see my kids make progress. The rules at school come home and it continues there.
The famous "time-out" is really great. So we use it at home, here they do that and it helps us. Apart from that, the school also has a project, called Chicago (Parent Program), I think, that is a project that teaches parents how to raise their kids, rules, self-esteem. And that helps parents a lot. Because apart from the fact that they come and teach us how to raise our kids, they pay us and give food and offer child care.
And this is very, I think that they don't do this anywhere else. What I mean is, it's a lot. The person that wants the opportunity to learn as a parent.
How the school helped after bullying
One time, our being bullied by a classmate. She said to my daughter, "You're fat." Because my daughter was a little heavier. So, we worried a lot because our daughter didn't want to come to school. So we came and talked to the teacher. And the teacher helped us a lot with our daughter and the classmate. And then they became best friends.
So in this aspect they helped us a lot because we worried about what happened in school. We didn't know and she didn't want to say. So I feel that in this they helped us a lot with her. And sometimes I arrive here and I say, I need information about something and they try to help me. And this is really great. We feel really comfortable here. I can't say 100% is perfect, because there is always a margin of error in a group, right? But sometimes you can't just focus on the bad things, you have to look at the good things that are happening.
Why our daughter likes chess club
My daughter wanted to play the viola or violin and it wasn't an option then because there wasn't space. So that left chess. So we tried to encourage her so that she would like it. "No, you're going to have fun and learn, it's for special people like you!" So we tried to motivate her so that she would like it. And then I think the rest of it came from her.
So I think that probably the teachers try to help them. And well, she says she loves it, and she likes it even more because she is the only girl. And she is thinking about going to a championship this year and even if she doesn't win, she wants to go. It will be a different experience.
Why it's important to meet with your child's teacher
It's important that parents come and talk with the teachers to know what is happening with our kids. And the teacher can help us as parents help our kids.
It's very important because it's the moment there when it's specifically with the teacher. And I am asking specific questions about my child. What is the progress? What is he doing well?
What is he not doing well? Or how can I help the teacher? So it's really important to come and to talk, because it's specifically to talk about the child. About what is happening or not? And it's important to reach out, see the room, what is the work, what are they doing, or what they are not doing also. So, I think it's really important, when it's time to come, and do it.
Our goals for our family
I think that our goals for our kids are that they are in a comfortable environment, that they feel free to say what they feel. The confidence to talk about things. And then when they make a decision, as adults, that is the correct one or the best one. We will be there to help them. And every day we try to talk a lot to them. Sometimes, they say, "We don't want to talk," because every day I am asking them a lot.
What is going on? And I want to know that happens during those eight hours that I don't see them at school. So I want to know because I know it's a long time. But our aspirations as parents, I would say, giving them a healthy environment, in all aspects. And then the expectation of seeing them grown up. Probably with a profession. And do we what can so that they are people who are kind.
And they can be fighters like us every day. Every day is a challenge. So, this is for them, this is our objective. That they are always proud of their parents, that every day we go to work. And they say, "Why do you work so much?" So I tell them, "You have to work every day. If Mom and Dad work, you also work at school. This is your job now." So that they are good people. But good, it's a complicated word. So that they can say, "My parents did a good job." This is the satisfaction as parents. That as adults, are good citizens.
My personal goals
My goal is to learn English well to have a better opportunity with respect to work. To communicate with diverse people.
And give stability and tranquility to our children. This worries us sometimes, and we want to a house, a car, save money for them. When they want to go to college they have, "Oh, Mom had this saved for us." These are our goals.
And my personal goal is that every time I try, every day I get up in the morning, I hope that God puts the right words in my mouth. And always to be active, to have this wish to do things the right way. This is my wish. And sometimes the day arrives, and I say, "Oh great, I did what I had to do. And if I didn't do it one day, tomorrow I will." So it's 11 at night and my husband says, "Ok, enough, stop."
So every day I have scheduled everything. So you need to have projects and vision in life to realize your objective.