EPS Parent, Catalina: How a cultural liaison helped me feel connected at EPS
Forming connections at school can be challenging when you are from a different culture. To help meet this challenge and to ensure all families feel welcome, Edina Public Schools has three cultural liaisons. They help engage and enrich the academic experience of students and families from the district’s largest bilingual/multi-lingual demographic student groups.
EPS parent, Catalina, credits Blanca Diaz De Leon, Spanish-speaking cultural liaison, for helping her get connected at EPS and making the transition less difficult. Catalina shared her experience to encourage current Pre-K parents to contact the cultural liaisons when they need assistance or have questions.
Q: How were you introduced to the Spanish-speaking cultural liaison, Blanca Diaz De Leon?
- I arrived in the U.S. two years ago and came to the Edina Public Schools Community Center to register my son for school in July. Blanca reached out to me because I made known that Spanish was my first language. She assisted me with completing the school registration because I was not comfortable doing it online and made sure my son was enrolled in kindergarten at Countryside. Blanca was very kind over the phone and spoke Spanish. She told me about other programs like an Edina soccer club for my son and Early Learning Center classes for my daughter.
Q: In what ways has Blanca helped you since your children started attending EPS?
- Blanca is like an angel to me. She has helped me with everything. She helps me whenever I need something with the school and assists me with writing an email or making a phone call. She puts herself in my shoes and helps me in what I need with my kids. Blanca also organizes meetings with other parents and school staff to walk us through information. For instance, when the parent portal was changed she arranged a meeting with someone who assists with log in and password assignments. The person showed us how to download it and use it with our phones. Blanca also translates all of the information in Spanish. She does a lot of work for us.
Q: What misconception do you think people have with cultural liaisons?
- People think that if they speak English, then they do not need a cultural liaison. Cultural liaisons do translate, but the most important thing they do is to show us opportunities that exist. Blanca has talked about what my kids can do in elementary school and how they can improve their abilities. Personally, I learned a lot about middle school and high school. It’s very different from my country and I was able to learn about all the opportunities offered to students.
- Blanca also understands our culture. She knows that we prefer face-to-face interactions versus online interactions.
Q: What advice would you give incoming kindergarten parents who may need a cultural liaison?
- I would advise parents to go to a liaison that is best for them and talk with them. If you don’t know how to do something, they will guide you through the process. If you are new to the district, go to one of the liaisons or go to Blanca. Tell her you are new and you want to know more about EPS. Visiting with a cultural liaison is an opportunity that doesn’t cost anything.
EPS cultural liaisons include: pictured left to right, Spanish-speaking cultural liaison, Blanca Diaz De Leon; Somali cultural liaison Abdikadir Ibrahim; and South Asian cultural liaison Sayali Amarapurkar. For more information, visit the Equity Resources page.