Marysville Schools’ ELL info night helps Spanish-speaking families get involved

MARYSVILLE — For the Peralta family it was more than just an evening of information about community services.

“It must be a very important thing if the mayor is here,” Gabriel Peralta said of the Marysville School District’s Nov. 3 information night for Spanish-speaking parents and parents of English Language Learner students, which was attended by Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring and a number of other city officials. “When important people like that invite us to participate, it shows that we can be part of the community and help out, just as they help us out. It works both ways.”

Wendy Messarina, the ELL multilingual parent/community Spanish liaison for the school district, provided running translations for Nehring and other representatives of organizations that serve the community, when they addressed the audience to explain the services available to Spanish-speaking community members. Nehring invited all those present to attend City Council meetings and his coffee klatches with the community, and indicated his willingness to speak at other local events.

“Marysville has a real wealth of diversity,” said Nehring, who pledged to form a diversity advisory committee including Messarina. He expressed the hope that such cultural exchanges could strengthen the community overall and make its members more well-rounded, and he promised to return citizens’ calls or e-mails within 24 hours, unless he was on vacation.

In addition to introducing and interpreting for representatives from organizations such as the Marysville Fire District and the Marysville Library, Messarina explained the services offered by the school district, including “Family Access” accounts that allow parents to check their children’s grades, attendance records and discipline files on the Internet.

“It’s like coming into the school, just online,” said Messarina, who also distributed lists of phone numbers to report student absences for each of the schools, as well as Spanish- and Russian-language phone numbers for monthly-updated information on each of the schools. In addition, she distributed Spanish-language pamphlets on how parents can help safeguard their children against gangs, cyber-bullying and suicide.

“The reason I grouped the parents together by their schools was so they could make friends within their schools,” Messarina said. “If you don’t know anyone else who’s a Spanish-speaking of ELL family, it can feel like you’re the only one.”

Gabriel Peralta was joined by his wife, Leticia, and his daughters, Nelly and Gabriella, in attending this event in the school district service center, where Ada Garza, a bilingual liaison for the district, also spoke about her work as the Latin Minority Achievers Program coordinator for the Marysville YMCA. Garza served as Gabriel Peralta’s interpreter during his interview with The Marysville Globe.

“The main thing is that this helps us get involved,” Gabriel Peralta said. “Sometimes when you don’t know the language, you stay back, but I know how important my involvement is for my kids to be successful. I’d never participated before because I lacked the knowledge. I didn’t know there were so many ways for Hispanics to be active in the community.”

Gabriella Peralta is an 18-year-old high school senior who’s often found herself serving as her family’s translator since they came from Mexico. She echoed her father’s appreciation for the evening of information on the many programs available to them.

“The schools and the community are already doing a lot,” Gabriella Peralta said. “There are so many clubs and groups that I didn’t even know existed. I didn’t know the city showed movies outdoors in the park. I would like to see at least one English class where the parents would learn the language with their children, so they could share that experience together.”

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