Woman can empathize with clients
In 2007, Neyma Rodriguez earned Garfield County’s Humanitarian Award for her work as resource coordinator for the Family Resource Centers. Here she talks about how her experience as a child influenced her career.Gallacher: Did you want to come the United States when you were 11?Rodriguez: I was excited because my dad used to come here and work seasonally and then come back home. He would tell us really nice stories about Colorado, California and the places he worked. When I got here, it was hard because I noticed the difference. The schools were different. Here kids read books and sit on the floor. In Mexico, I never experienced that. In Mexico, I sat in a chair all day listening to my teacher. He was in the front of us all day, and we weren’t supposed to move. It was hard. But here it was fun. It was something different for me so I was excited about it. But then it got hard because I didn’t understand a word she was saying.Gallacher: Did you feel welcome?Rodriguez: Yes, I think it was easier for me than for my parents. I like to meet people, and I like to have friends, so it was easy for me to integrate into the school. I think it was difficult for my parents. It was especially hard for my mom. She didn’t think she could learn English because she felt she was too old. So she was struggling with that all of the time.It was hard for me because I am the oldest in my family, so I was the one who had to help my parents. Every time my mom or dad had an appointment I was translating for them. Every time they needed something from the store I was always, always translating for them. To be honest, I think it is really hard for a kid, an 11-year-old, to be in charge of something like that.I was taken out of my classes, my school because I had to go to my mom’s appointments. I wasn’t doing very well in school because I was missing a lot. I was also in charge of my brother and sister who were really little. I had to come back home and go and get them from the baby sitter and help my mom cook dinner. I think that is a cultural thing.Gallacher: Did your experience as a young person prepare you for the work you do now?Rodriguez: Yes, I totally understand the circumstances of the families I work with. I work with mostly immigrant families, and I understand because I was in their place when I first got here. Coming to a new country you don’t know anyone. You don’t know where to go. I get questions like “My kid is sick, where do I take him?” “Where do I look for a job?” or “How do I look for an apartment?” I used to help my parents find the answers to those kind of questions. I remember how hard it was for them, and now I have a chance to help others. I really like to help.
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AS OF THURSDAY, APRIL 22