It’s tough enough parenting a high school student, staying engaged and involved in their schooling. When you don’t speak English, it’s even harder.
Struggling to connect with teachers and staff and not being aware of the numerous resources available are some of the dilemma’s non-English speaking parents face. Bilingual Resource Specialist (BRS), Silvia Gomez helps close this communication gap by serving as the liaison between students, teachers, and parents at Madison East High School.
Gomez’s role as a BRS includes answering parents questions regarding students’ academic performance, translating during parent-teacher conferences, and planning and facilitating monthly Latino parent meetings. “[But] sometimes it gets to be personal. Like something happens in their home life and they don’t know what to do. They call me and then I refer them to a counselor or to a psychologist,” Gomez says. “Once my time shift is done, my day does not end. I still think about them.”
Gomez goes above and beyond her job descriptions — even though she is often not paid for the additional work she does. Aside from bringing the Latinx community and the school together, Gomez has become a second mother to many of her students.
As an alumna of East, Gomez has always wanted to give back to the school and community that helped her grow. Aside from being East’s official BRS, Gomez is the advisor for Latino Student Union.
“The whole time I’ve been working here, I have seen a huge disconnect between our Latino students and school,” Gomez says. “When I was in high school I had lots of support. I had lots of people that help me and guide me… and I just didn’t see that happening much here, at the high school level.” The formation of this Latinx-based group became a reality two years ago through several student leaders and Gomez’s guidance.
The purpose of LSU is to connect students to the greater Madison community and get them to start networking with professionals. “I want to connect (my students) to Latinx leaders so they can see that there is more out there than just graduating from high school,” Gomez says. “The purpose of a lot of my work is trying to get students to be successful Latinx leaders. I want kids to open their eyes and see that they’re not just limited to Madison, realize that there’s more out there.”
With the help of Gomez, Latino Student Union raised over $10,000. A great part of the money fundraised was given out as scholarships to send 11 students to college this fall. This past fall, the Latino Student Union organized and led a walk-out from East High School to the Wisconsin state Capitol to protest proposed anti-immigrant laws. More than 300 students and community members joined them on their walk-out. Their efforts, along with the efforts of other organizations and activist groups, were able to prevent these laws from passing.
The long hours and unpaid work are worth it to Gomez.
“I really think LSU is a pot of gold waiting to be used,” Gomez tells us. She hopes that the Madison community starts to notice the precious pot of gold, which is filled with brilliant and skilled students that one day will be leading this country.
This piece was written by a Madison365 Academy student. For more information or to support the Madison365 Academy, visit madison365.org/academy.