Bridging Boundaries
Bridging Boundaries
Posted on 08/18/2016
Norma

Bridging Boundaries

Speaking with One Voice

By Stacia Harris, Assistant Director of Communications



From a small, nondescript office at Clyde A. Erwin High School, Norma Duran-Brown is building bridges between the school staff and the Hispanic communities they serve. Her efforts are translating into better understandings, relationships, and outcomes with the Latino population, which is transforming into a school culture that is better embracing its rich diversity.


Brown’s career path onto the Erwin staff has taken her far from her homeland in Argentina, but her background has uniquely prepared her to succeed where others may have struggled to relate.


“There are multi layers of challenges,” she says.  “Language is a main one, and I think the school system is making a tremendous effort through language services to overcome this barrier not only for Spanish speaking parents, but for all parents.”


Brown accepted the new job of Family Outreach Specialist in February. Her many responsibilities include identifying student problems, the cause of the difficulties, and then devising a workable solution. Students may be having attendance troubles, transportation issues, or struggling to understand and adapt to a new culture.


It’s all about student success. Brown says everybody wants the best for the students. The challenges they face are unique but “open communication is key. It’s about being all on the same page, supporting each other’s efforts- that’s the key to that success, and the first step is getting to know each other and communicating intentionally and deeply.”


She says the main goal of this position is to promote better understanding between Latino students, their families, and the school. Brown will quickly tell you she is not an interpreter, although she will assume this role as needed.


“That’s what is different and unique. Everyone has role. My role is between all of them...social worker, counselor, teacher, student and family.”


Brown goes on to say, “There is already an understanding of the system and culture. The fact is I’m here, and I can interact with all of them. I assist them in gaining a new depth in knowing each other.”


Brown’s office is at Erwin High, but she serves as a liaison for all schools in the Erwin District. Although the position is new, Erwin’s staff is already taking notice. Counselor Nicole Killeen says she is filling a recognized need.


“Throughout the Erwin District schools, we have students from many different countries. School- including graduation requirements, discipline, buses, etc.- can be quite different around the world. Norma is able to help students and families navigate their new school system.”


Social Worker Shelly Roeder says Brown “works tirelessly to help students and families. What we know about success for students is that it all hinges on connections within the school.”


This year, Brown’s goals include boosting student attendance, encouraging parental participation, and facilitating workshops for educators. It’s also to make tangible differences in student’s lives.  


Josember Jimenez is an Erwin junior who admits he had difficulty with his transition into high school. Attendance was a challenge this year as he tried to work and go to school. But, with Brown’s help, he is getting the most out of his high school education.


“It makes some things easier for me. If we need someone for help, we have her. It’s like having a friend here we can count on for everything,” Josember said.


He joined JUNTOS (which means ‘together’ in Spanish) this year. This program helps students get on a path to college and a career.


“To be honest I wasn’t thinking about going to college, but now I am. I’m thinking about which career,” he said with a smile. “I want to be a psychologist or mechanic because I love cars.”

Log on to BCSAdvantage.org to read this article in Spanish.
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