Thursday, January 11, 2001

New kids find a friend

Janitor adds translator to school routine

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        FAIRFIELD — Custodian Domingo Carrizales has much in common with 5-year-old Moises Villar, who attends Fairfield Kindergarten Center.

        Like Moises, Mr. Carrizales knew no English when he started school in Texas. That's why he helped Moises' teacher, Cindy Meyer, put together a laminated book of simple school rules for Moises.

[photo] Custodian Domingo Carrizales uses cards with photos to help Moises Villar adjust to kindergarten.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        In it are pictures of Moises raising his hand, sitting on the carpet and standing in line with class mates. Below each picture — printed in English and Spanish — are simple reminders. Raise your hand. Sit quietly on the carpet. Walk in line.

        “I went through it,” said Mr. Carrizales, 56, a native of Texas. “My parents were from Mexico. At home, we spoke Spanish.”

        The son of Mexican-born migrant farm workers, Mr. Carrizales has become the school's unofficial consultant, called upon to help educators communicate with the 20 Latino students enrolled this year and with their families. Only about half of the students or family members speak English.

        Ms. Meyer says Mr. Carrizales has helped Moises learn the school routine and in communicat ing with Moises' family.

        “Domingo is really easy to talk to and is always there when you need help. He's made things easier for us,” she said.

        Mr. Carrizales comes to school, often on his own time, to translate during conferences. He creates posters or booklets for children like Moises, with English and Spanish words. At times he explains aspects of the Latino culture that differ from American customs or expectations.

        And he's there to hug or calm children who sometimes become overwhelmed by new surroundings.

        “He genuinely cares about these kids,” said Principal Susan Lindberg. “His whole idea is to help others. He's taken the time to help us understand cultural differences.”

        Mr. Carrizales recently was honored by the Fairfield Board of Education.

        “With eight kids in the family, I come from a poor and humble family,“ he said. “We always had plenty of food and clothes, were healthy and stayed together. That's important, for families to stay together.”

        John Pennell, Fairfield's administrative assistant for business, said the schools are seeing an increase in minority enrollment “in the Hispanic and multiracial areas.”

        From last year to this, Fairfield's Hispanic enrollment rose almost 25 percent, from 81 students to 101, Mr. Pennell said.


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