by Talia Rodríguez
I struggled to learn to read in both languages. I always felt old fashioned red, white, and blue smart but with spelling I wasn’t a winner. After 46 months of Latinaherstory as a published “Columnist”, the Doctorate etc., I still remember STARING at the page: BLANK, SAD, MAD, and tiny. Mrs. Gilbert knew I was smart and her 6:30 AM prep period was dedicated to helping us both prove it to the world, all before school breakfast at 7:30 AM.
When I didn’t feel good enough, down to my bones, I thought about God. Abuela was Pentecostal, y’all know I wasn’t ever the first one to the passage when Pastor called it, but I got the message. I tell my son who is in first grade now. God makes us all perfect, it’s the journey that shows your gumption, and that’s if you got any.
I call myself a “folk writer” because I write to talk to people, directly, like my neighbors. That’s why “A.I’ and “Chat GPT” didn’t sit right with me, at first. Till someone pointed out, the very real fact, I would be toast, with and without cafe, but for SPELLCHECK. He said spellcheck was “artificial intelligence” and I started hearing different cus, I know, I know, a lot of words I cannot spell.
For the “kids” (with their little backpacks) It’s a new ball game, and its faster. They don’t know what it feels like to WONDER, they don’t know the world without instant answers, or the fear of them. I remember the sound of AOL Dial up.
We all need guidance and a living example for me, was Alicia Granto, in a skirt suit, at the Hispanic Women’s League brunch and other places. Always upright, a vision of civility, and the perfect mix of business attire and warmness, I needed, to feel like my cardigan would someday be a blazer. Undeterred, I missed the deadline for the Hispanic Women League’s scholarship that year but within the days research I found AAUW and later the confidence to apply for a grant. Dedication to a persistent call to excellence powered by empathy is what Alicia Granto embodied for me as a student.
She reflects on the values she learned as a child.
The values that I acquired as a child were much more modeled by my parents than taught to me per say. No one sat with me and said “this is what you do and this is what you do not!” That inculcated in me the importance of showing our youth how to empower themselves as happy, productive human beings by role modeling that behavior rather than preaching to them.
I have worn numerous hats in my life career wise and professionally. I started in the educational field and after dabbling in other areas, here I am today still pursuing my passion and what I believe I am really good at which is helping others maximize their potential. I am convinced no other endeavor would make me feel as fulfilled as being an educator and a provider of overall wellness.
When asked to define a leader she states: “A leader to me is someone that others tend to follow spontaneously not necessarily because they brand themselves as leaders.”
Alicia Granto is one single person whose investment in WNY is felt globally through the work of her family and through the thousands of hands belonging to students whose hearts she shaped. This December, remember, being brave enough to believe in someone is a gift specifically when it seems unlikely.
Oh, and think of me, and give a kid some space, a calculator, and spell check (and a snack if you’ve got one handy) and see what happens next.
Genius – is my guess. #gloriadios for the world is better because of teachers and nourishing souls like Alicia.
Oh, and thank you Mrs. Gilbert, I guess you were right!
Images of a notebook with pencil and a notebook near clear jar were created by Skylar Kang and Jessica Lewis from pexels.com respectively.
Talia Rodriguez is a bi-racial, bi-cultural, and bi-lingual Latina from Buffalo. Ms. Rodriguez’s mission is to write about Latina’s, who have shaped the face of our city and our region. It is Ms. Rodriguez’s believes that our own people should inspire us and in telling our collective stories, we push our community forward. Ms. Rodriguez is a community advocate and organizer. She is a 5th generation West Sider, a graduate of SUNY Buffalo Law School, and an avid baseball fan. She lives on the West Side with her young son A.J… Ms. Rodriguez sits on the board of several organizations including the Belle Center, where she attended daycare. Ms. Rodriguez loves art, music, food, and her neighbors.