Juntos: Our Stories with Denise
Meet Denise Piza
Kyle Yeager Photography
I was the first person in my family to go to college. I didn’t go right after high school. I didn’t know anything about scholarships, or how to get support for further education. I had to figure out so much alone. That’s why Juntos is so important to me – you don’t have to negotiate the college experience alone!
Sometimes when people have a lot of pride, it’s difficult to ask for help. The Latino population in my town is very united with each other, but somewhat isolated from the school and broader community. It doesn’t come naturally for them to go to the school to ask for help with their kids. Juntos has opened a lot of doors, helping families be much more connected to the school. Parents are getting more involved, even starting their own English and GED classes.
Our school counselor has been so excited! She’s attended every session, speaking through a translator, sharing her knowledge with this group of parents for the first time. A mom came up to me after a session and said, “Thank you SO much for doing this. You took what the counselor said and brought it to my level.”
Juntos meets the people in their own language. Being able to tailor it to the community with different languages is key (Juntos has Spanish, English, and even Native American programs in Warm Springs). Having a shared experience with other similar families is so powerful because people are more at ease, and it’s not as threatening.
Every parent has the desire and motivation for their kids to do well; they just don’t always know where to start. I wish my own parents had had Juntos to help me. This should be happening in every Oregon community.