Volunteer moms lead by example

Shannon Litz/Nevada Appeal

Shannon Litz/Nevada Appeal

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Maria Diaz's 15-year-old-son, Chuey, wants to be a surgeon. Luis, 10, wants to be a policeman. Angel wants to be a carpenter, but he's only 3, so she won't hold him to it.

Maria doesn't know exactly how to make all of that happen, but she's sure about one thing.

"They have to study," she said.

And Diaz knows the best way to ensure they do is to help them. Since Chuey was in fifth grade at Mark Twain Elementary School - where Luis in now a fifth-grader - Diaz has been a constant presence in the classroom and at parent meetings.

At Tuesday's school board meeting, Maria and her sister Emma Diaz will be recognized for their commitment to their children's education.

"It's a good way to get to know your children better," Maria said in Spanish. "When I spend time in the classroom, I know what they're going through."

Seeing the difference Maria's involvement made, Emma volunteered as soon as her daughter entered pre-kindergarten.

"I learned a lot when I started to help her," Emma said. "We learn together."

The two often help with the parent-teacher association, serve on the school improvement team and help host information nights for Latino parents.

Emma said she was somewhat intimated at first because of her limited English-speaking skills. But she quickly overcame that.

"The school helped out a lot," Emma said.

The two moms have worked with Latino parent groups through Nevada Hispanic Services, and are now leading the way to encourage other parents to participate more.

"I think they feel the same way I did the first time," Emma said. "We try to tell them what they can do. We try to be a voice for them."

She said parents often just need an invitation.

"In our culture, if someone tells us we need your help, we do great," she said. "But we're a little bit shy."

Principal Laura Austin said parents like Emma and Maria are crucial to the school.

"The success of the child is directly correlated to the level of involvement of the parent," Austin said. "Beyond that, so many of our systems depend on the participation of our parents. Schools depend on parents in that practical sense, too."

If you go

WHAT: Carson City School Board meeting

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Carson City Community Center, 851 E. William St.


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