Creciendo Juntos

Creciendo Juntos


Recently, it’s been a hard battle for a lot of community members to adjust to the new life after COVID-19. Especially when it’s unstable, always changing, and it never seems to end. However, Creciendo Juntos has acknowledged many leaders brillante that shows resilience and resourcefulness that many can look upon to. Our leader for this month is Pilar Magdalena Valtierra, a member in our Education Workgroup and leader of De Raíces a Risas.

So we’re going to open this interview up with a quick introduction.

My name is Pilar Magdalena Valtierra. I am 27 years old and was currently working in Mountain View Elementary School (formally known as Cale Elementary) as a teacher assistant. I also help run a small remodeling/housekeeping company [as a part-time job].

Where did you grow up? What was it like growing up there?

I was raised in Deland, Florida for the majority of my life. Deland is a small city which has a warm and diverse inviting community. I grew up with my entire family around, both maternal and paternal, which made it easier for me to always have someone to reach out to. My family was always out and about- some days after school you could find us swimming in a nearby spring by my grandma’s house, other days we ended our nights walking on the Daytona Beach’s boardwalk, or we’re just simply visiting grandma’s house playing ‘Loteria’ [Mexican bingo] among other things. There was always family around.

What brought you to Charlottesville, Virginia?

The 2008 recession hurt Florida excessively badly. It took a few years to finally begin to show hopes of recovering but by then [my family and I] had already moved to Virginia. During that time, Charlottesville was growing and my in-laws along with my husband decided that the smart thing to do was to re-start their business company here all over again. The process was slow but we had bigger hopes here. The community was very warm and I loved how there were many family based events programs.

How has living in Charlottesville shaped your experience as a Latinx individual?

As I mentioned before, Deland is very diverse. Especially within the Latinx community. Spanish spoken everywhere, there were many Latinx grocery stores, and you could hear music in Spanish playing everywhere you went. When we arrived in Charlottesville, we noticed that the Latinx community was fairly small and it was really difficult to find the foods we missed eating. I began to seek and learn more about my traditions and culture since I wanted to bring them here and share them with our new home.

Could you tell us about your interests and passions both in working with the Latinx community of Charlottesville and anything else you enjoy doing?

I had the desire to be more involved with the community since I had began my own cultural journey. The more I got involved the more I learned not just about my own culture but of others as well. In the process I found out that I didn’t just want to learn, I also wanted to help my community grow and help them feel proud of who they are as a whole.

What sparked your inspiration or motivation in pursuing your current career? Has it always been the same goal? If not, what was the journey like?

I never thought I’d work with children until I did. It’s fun, challenging, and rewarding all at the same time. It’s my first year as a TA [Teacher’s Assistant] and I’m in the kindergarten Spanish EMERGE class. I have two daughters so this job gives me the flexibility to learn and also have time with my family. I want to go back to school and major in business since my ultimate goal is to run my own business and others as well.

How did you hear about Creciendo Juntos?

I was attending a mental health class with Ingrid Ramos in The Women’s Initiative. When that ended, she invited us all to a Creciendo Juntos meeting. I attended and well, I slowly got more and more involved.

Many do not know this but you’re the creator of De Raíces a Risas, what sparked the idea to bring this program to life?

I think there are many factors to how this idea came to me. My mother would take us to Mexico for summer vacations since I could remember and my most favorite memories are when all the children would come out and in the evenings and play all together. I learned games that had to do with rhymes and singing and lots of movement. I thought why not? Why not have the families bring that here? Let’s teach our children the games from back home, let’s be more interactive with them, let’s play with them more, and let’s pass on a little bit of our childhood to them.

How has Creciendo Juntos helped bring this program together?

Creciendo Juntos is all about how we can empower the community, I shared my idea and we began to work on it right away. The moment I shared my interest in creating De Raices A Risas, I had their support from finding a location, to creating flyers, creating a program, and reaching out to families.

Unfortunately, we are unable to recreate the same format of the program due to COVID-19, could you please talk about how De Raíces a Risas plan to overcome this?

Unfortunately, we are not able to gather and enjoy it all together. The team and I thought of creating this play kit package where we have families work on them together! We want to try to have parents and children involved in creating something fun. It won’t be the same as last summer’s event, it will be different. However, it will have the same intention and purpose of parent and children interaction as well as gaining knowledge of their own traditions. I am sure that this will bring many families memories of their own songs and games that they can share to their children.

As you’re a mother of two, would you like to share your experiences on how you’re battling COVID-19 in your own household? What are ways you’ve brought school to your children?

The panic is there and I think that every parent will be afraid because of their own children’s safety. The first two weeks were challenging since schools were suddenly closed. My best friend has been Pinterest in the way of creating schedules, worksheets, and creative learning tools. Our teachers were always connected which was an enormous help. We are always learning and I say we because I also am learning with them. They both do what is asked in terms of school work but we are also doing it our own way the way we can.

What are some ways to encourage community and children to stay active during the pandemic?

That this shall pass, maybe not today or tomorrow or the next but it will pass and in the meantime do we want to shut ourselves down or do we want to find ourselves and learn? Let’s empower our minds, our bodies, our spirit for a better and safer tomorrow.

Interviewed by Elizabeth Valtierra
Click here to read May 2020 newsletter.

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