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Transcending Borders

Presidents Represent the Community

Becki King and Catherine Caminero may not speak the same language at home, but they have a lot in common.

King and Caminero are both mothers, day-care providers, and they are Sully Elementary School’s PTO co-presidents.

"We represent our school," King said.

The PTO’s is mission is to get all of Sully Elementary School parents involved in their children’s academic life.

King, a mother of four, asked Caminero if she would help her lead the organization this school year.

"I really wanted to reach out to the Hispanic community in our school," she said. "I knew Catherine could help me do it."

Even though Caminero, a mother of three, did not have much time to spare, she wanted to help her community and knew she had the tools to do so.

Caminero, a native of Venezuela, moved to Sterling eight years ago. She speaks Spanish at home with her three children, Cristian, 3, Cristobal, 5, and Camila, 7.

With King’s organizational skills and Caminero’s Spanish-speaking abilities, the team said they hope to bring more Sully Elementary School parents into the school and get them involved in their children’s lives.

"No matter what language they speak," King said.

ON MONDAY MORNING, Caminero stapled red, pink and white construction paper onto a bulletin board in the main lobby. While she stapled construction paper to a cork board, King talked to her about upcoming fund-raisers and projects.

In order to generate more parent participation, the women have tailored PTO-sponsored Family Nights and fund-raisers to appeal to the school’s diverse community. For example, King replaced Bingo Night with Salsa Night and Caminero organizes soccer tournaments throughout the year.

"No one in Venezuela plays bingo," Caminero laughed.

The two parents said their efforts have increased the number of parents who participate in school functions, but it’s not enough.

In order to reach out to Spanish-speaking parents, King will type up fliers for upcoming projects and fund-raisers in English. Then, she e-mails them to Caminero, who translates the documents into Spanish.

"All of our parents’ notes are in English and Spanish," Caminero said.

KING SAID SHE hopes Spanish-speaking families feel comfortable in the halls of Sully Elementary School.

"This is their home, too," she said.

Both King and Caminero hope to bring all Sterling families in to meet one another, understand their differences and recognize their similarities.

"We have to get to know each other in order to understand our different cultures and our different ways of life," King said. "Our children are already there."

Caminero's son, Cristobal, and King's son, Spencer, 6, are best friends. The Sully Elementary School kindergartners learn from each other while playing soccer or running around the park, Caminero said.

In their first year as co-presidents, Caminero said they are doing their best to get the job done, but it’s not easy to get parents involved.

"It’s always the same group of people coming to meetings," she said. "Everybody’s busy."

Since Caminero started translating PTO fliers into Spanish, she said she has noticed a slight increase in parent involvement from the Hispanic community. She has seen the greatest increase in participation in soccer tournaments and international festivals.

"Those are always a huge success," she said.

When the PTO sponsors international festivals, everyone from the community brings a traditional dish from their home country to share with the rest of the school.

"Some people dress up, too," Caminero said.

King and Caminero agreed they would like to see more parent involvement, especially with the introduction of a new principal to the school.

Sully Elementary School Principal Timothy Martino moved into the school in January and the women already met with him to talk about their goals and concerns for the remainder of the year.

"We all have the same concerns," King said.

THE CO-PRESIDENTS are busy right now planning for the Silent Auction and Movie Night Friday, Feb. 16, at Sully Elementary School.

All proceeds will be donated to the schools' PTO. The PTO gives every Sully Elementary School teacher $175 a year to use on additional classroom supplies to enhance children’s learning.

"Not every school does that," King said.

"Come out, join us," Caminero said. "Your kids will benefit."