April 30, 2007
By CRISTINA DE LEÓN-MENJIVAR
Of the things Alondra Guzman misses from Mexico, her pollito, or "little chicken," is one of the most dear.
"I called him 'chicken little'," the 7-year-old said in Spanish.
It has been a year since Alondra, her mother Maria Elena and her brother Diego, 6, moved from Atontonilco el Alto, Jalisco, to Napa to join her father Mario so the entire family could be together again.
Mario Guzman is a 17-year employee of Sterling Vineyards. He is also a student, as is everyone else in his family. He is studying for his citizenship exam. His wife is taking English as a second language. Alondra and Diego are English learners at McPherson Elementary School.
It was late May 2006 when Alondra and Diego enrolled at McPherson.
On her first day of school, Alondra received a very warm welcome from her classmates. In a recent interview at her home, Alondra hugged her stuffed Bambi doll as she reminisced.
"A lot of the girls supported me and gave me gifts," she said. Among the gifts she received were a dry erase board and pink marker.
After almost a year in school, Alondra's teachers say she is doing well, and picking up English quickly. This is because her Spanish skills are high, they say, making it easier for her to pick up a new language.
She is doing so well she helps her mother learn English.
"I'm her English teacher, I laugh at her pronunciation," Alondra said in English, laughing.
In Mexico, Maria Elena worked as a laboratory technician at a medical clinic, which required three years of college. After learning the necessary English through a class for parents offered at McPherson, she plans to look for a lab tech job in Napa.
To help herself and her children she encourages them to speak English, even when they're on the playground.
"Sometimes a little girl will ask if (Alondra) wants to jump rope, and I tell her, 'tell your friends to speak to you in English,' so they learn, and we can learn together," Maria Elena said.
Adapting to Napa has not been easy, the family members said.
"You leave your family, your language, your job," Maria Elena said. As reminder of their roots, several calendars from markets in their hometown adorn the walls, featuring paintings of Atontonilco el Alto.
Although she said it sometimes hurts to think of the life they left, Maria Elena said she knows her children have a better educational future here.
"There's no resources in Mexico, there's talented teachers, but no resources," Maria Elena said. "(My children) get a lot of support here, and (teachers) don't leave them behind."
Diego has been flourishing in school, and has been given generous gifts from his teachers, including a set of Lego building blocks.
To busy himself, Diego often takes apart his toys and puts them back together, though modified to how he wants them to look.
In his kindergarten classroom he is learning both English and Spanish.
Although Maria Elena is trying her best to teach and help her children with English, she wants the children to retain their Spanish language skills, to serve as a reminder of where they came from and who they are.
"We're very proud of being (from Mexico), you can't forget your roots, and I want them to always know Spanish," Maria Elena said.
Source: Napa Valley Register