“It has been so helpful to me, as a working mom. Knowing that [my child] is receiving the academic support she needs through her tutors at New City Kids and her teacher at Cesar Chavez Elementary means that I can be there to offer third tier support.” – Isela Hernandez
This month we are highlighting the Hernandez Family! Isela and Daniel Hernandez are the proud mother and stepfather of Gabby, who is in third grade at Cesar Chavez Elementary. Both Isela and Daniel attended GRPS as children and Isela is also a GRPS employee in our English Learners Department. When the pandemic began, families were confronted with a difficult decision: Is it safe for my child to return to school in person? When GRPS announced that there would be two learning options for families under the Return to Learn plan, the Hernandez family chose the 100% virtual learning option for Gabby. This meant transferring to Cesar Chavez from another school outside the district, but Isela felt good about this decision for her child. “I also attended Cesar Chavez when it was called Hall School and had a great experience there,” says Isela. “I have tons of memories of having fun there, but still enjoying leadership roles even during elementary school.”
Even though her virtual learning schedule means that Gabby has never physically attended school at Cesar Chavez, she has had a wonderful experience since transferring there. “Gabby’s teacher has been super helpful during this adjustment. She has also made a lot of friends. They network together and find time to ‘play’ after school virtually,” Isela explained with a smile. Another thing that has made Gabby’s transition to virtual learning at GRPS successful is her participation in New City Kids. “Their day & after school program, in conjunction with her remote classes at Cesar Chavez, has been great,” Isela says. “It has been so helpful to me, as a working mom. Knowing that Gabby is receiving the academic support she needs through her tutors at New City and her teacher at school means that I can be there to offer third tier support.”
Though she enjoys the after school program and her remote classes, Gabby has found it tough to have such a long day. As an elementary student, having to participate virtually at all times is difficult, but Isela says that she thinks that Gabby is doing great regardless. The structured schedule that Gabby’s teacher provides has made a big difference while the students navigate the remote learning classroom.
Isela says that teamwork is the most important takeaway her family has learned from this school year. “Our village has gotten stronger,” she explains. “With Gabby having access to so much technology, my sisters have been able to connect with her over Zoom and talk her through her assignments while I’m busy working.” Isela is grateful that her extended family has been able to remain connected and come together to help Gabby be successful. Isela says that having a village behind her has helped Gabby maintain her happy spirit and supported her social/emotional health. “In spite of the challenges we’ve faced in the last year, I think we have all learned a lot about the value of teamwork.”
When asked for the one piece of advice Isela would give to other GRPS families during this time, she had a great message to pass on. She advised that people should continue to take life one moment at a time. It will get hard, because life isn’t easy (especially during a pandemic), but it’s important to reach out for help. “Start looking for help if you need it, because there are many groups who want to help right now,” she says, referring to the after school tutoring support her family received at New City Kids. Isela also mentioned that “we can support each other now, but I believe we can also support each other after the pandemic.” So many community organizations and individuals around Grand Rapids are extending support to those in need, and Isela believes that this can (and should!) continue to happen after COVID restrictions have been lifted. She finishes the interview with a great closing thought: “At the end of the day, it’s all for the children. We need to unite so that they are able to live their lives and enjoy their childhoods despite this pandemic.”
We couldn’t agree more! Thank you so much, Isela, for speaking on behalf of your family and being our Featured Family this month. Do you know a GRPS family who should be featured? Nominate them using this easy form, and we’ll get in touch!