Sunday, November 2, 2014

Millennium Parents: an example of what's right in Monterey County

Monterey County has been in the news a lot lately for the challenges it faces raising its children. It's sobering and can be a bit discouraging, so I'd like to offer an example of what can be done right.

Meet Eleazar and Alba Sosa and Jesús and Esperanza Capiz. They are all immigrants from Mexico, field workers living in the Salinas Valley, and they are all raising academically successful children and wonderful human beings.

Both set of parents have children who earned the Gates Millennium Scholarship, which will cover all their educational expenses and open the door to other opportunities. Kevin Capiz, now studying math at Stanford University, and Randy Sosa, now at the U.S. Naval Academy, are two of only three students in Monterey County to ever receive the coveted scholarship. About 50,000 students apply nationwide every year, and only 1,000 receive it.

As part of my volunteer work for the Literacy Campaign for Monterey County, I had the opportunity to host a workshop for parents with the Sosa's and the Capiz's during the Engaged Parents Conference on Saturday at Hartnell College. They generously gave up their day to share with other parents their experiences raising academically successful children. 

Eleazar and Alba Sosa have lived in Greenfield for decades. Jesús and Esperanza Capiz have made King City their home since 1988. Both couples made raising their children a priority ever since they were little: during the presentation on Saturday, Jesús Capiz shared how the family had no money for cable or even a television set, so they spent afternoons playing with their children and teaching them   shapes and colors. Alba Sosa would drag her children into the kitchen so they would read to her as she cooked -- even if they didn't want to. The couples shared philosophy and practical advice on the every day hard work of raising children.

Both couples are strong believers in bilingualism -- even as their command of English is limited. They insisted from the get go the children had to learn Spanish, and all their children communicate perfectly in English and Spanish. 

They make it sound so easy, but they also spoke about the frustration and the hard work.  Eleazar  sometimes catches a nap in the car while waiting for his daughter to finish a 4H meeting. Yeah, sometimes they don't feel like driving to Fresno or Modesto for cross-country competitions, but they do it nonetheless. They know the best gift they can give their children is their constant presence, on the sports fields and in the classroom. They don't drive fancy cars or have elegant furniture, but their choices have made it all worth it, they say. Randy went to Australia to compete in cross country, and their youngest daughter, Jocelynn, is now being invited to the same competition as well.

Which means more work for the hardworking parents: they'll have to start selling pozole and tacos to raise money for the trip. They sigh, shrug their shoulders, and do it with a smile on their faces.

It's not magic. It's hard work and commitment. But it also takes strong convictions and a strong social network, something that our immigrant families, having left families and traditions behind, often lack.

Eleazar, Alba, Jesús, Esperanza, you are an example for many in this Salinas Valley, and across the United States. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and expertise with us!

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