Ambassadors for Hispanic families

Ambassadors for Hispanic families

Hispanic Ambassadors help Latino families settle in and bring cultures together at South Jersey Catholic Schools.

GIBBSTOWN — Stepping into a classroom here at Guardian Angels Regional School, Claudia Trani-Melgar immediately was greeted by the second graders, who jumped out of their seats.

“Good morning, Maestra Claudia!” came the enthusiastic welcome, with the students appropriately using the Spanish word for “teacher” to address the school’s Spanish instructor.

This past year, she received another title: “Madrina,” or “Godmother.”

Trani-Melgar is one of the nine individuals thus named that serve South Jersey Catholic schools, in an initiative of the Diocese of Camden’s Catholic Schools Latino Enrollment Program.

The madrinas serve as school ambassadors and welcome new and current Hispanic families, all with the goal of “providing them access to Catholic education,” said Trani-Melgar.

No stranger to the school, for the past seven years the Bolivia-born woman has taught her first language, Spanish, to students from PreK-8 at Guardian Angels. Her own children are enrolled in the school, Luciano, now in fifth grade, and Gianna in third.

She also has experience with getting the word out, having been a writer for both The Courier Post and Philadelphia’s Al Dia newspapers.

These qualifications made her an ideal candidate to reach out to Hispanic families, said Marianela Nuñez, field consultant for the Latino Enrollment Program.

This past summer, Trani-Melgar addressed families attending the Spanish Masses at Saint Clare of Assisi, Swedesboro; and Saint Gabriel, Carneys Point, explaining to them the value of a Catholic education for their children. As well, she assuaged their financial fears, assuring them that “we’re going to help (you) make it affordable.”

“The pastors of these parishes (Father David Grover and Father Charles Colozzi) have been supportive” of our efforts, she said.

Currently, 13 Hispanic students are enrolled at Guardian Angels, studying at the Gibbstown and Paulsboro campuses.

From the moment they enter the school, Trani-Melgar “makes the families feel like a part of the community,” Nuñez said, whether it is assisting them with paperwork; coordinating the monthly school community get-togethers; or matching up a new Hispanic family with an already-established family for support and fellowship.

“We want to make sure that they feel a part of this community, with faith at the center,” Trani-Melgar said.

Guardian Angels school principal Sister Jerilyn Einstein called Trani-Melgar’s “exuberant personality and enthusiasm” a much-needed asset for the school and parish communities, ensuring “that our Latino families feel at home, loved and supported.”

As Spanish teacher to the entire school community, in addition to her role as Madrina, Trani-Melgar “is able to help our children and families by teaching acceptance, and by instilling in them appreciation for other cultures and traditions,” Sister Jerilyn added.

Nuñez and Trani-Melgar hope that as the families get acclimated, they will tell their neighbors of their positive experiences, and convince them to enroll their own children at the school.

“The hope is that we create momentum,” Nuñez expressed.

With her new role at the school, along with the eight other madrinas connecting with Hispanic families, Trani-Melgar sees hope.

“I feel lucky and blessed to change the lives of so many children.”

Not just the lives of the Hispanic students she sees walking through the doors, but all of the students, making new friends and embracing different cultures.

“Previously in my Spanish classes, when I asked why they wanted to learn Spanish, students told me they wanted to learn because it would help them when they went to some exotic place for vacation,” she said.

“Now, my students tell me they want to learn it, so they can talk with their classmates.

Categories: Catholic School News

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