of pride: Dulce Isalguez Parker
Several years ago, social
worker Dulce Isalguez Parker was concerned about a growing
number of at-risk Latino and black children.
As an immigrant herself – her family left the Dominican
Republic when she was 12 – she thought about what had
kept her out of trouble and helped her succeed while growing
up. She could point to one thing: pride in who she was and
where she came from. So she founded Making Connections Inc., a
nonprofit educational program that teaches children and parents
to embrace their cultural heritage and builds self-esteem in
Children are like little sponges. I grew up in New York, around so many cultures; it was easy to learn about everyone – Jewish, African-American, Latino. I went to school with a little United Nations, so embracing different cultures came naturally to me. But I never thought that I'd be promoting cultural diversity and teaching parents to value who they are. But I guess just growing up in New York inspired me.
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Dulce Isalguez Parker founded Making
Connections Inc., helping parents and children embrace their
When did you realize that you wanted to specialize in cultural education?
I had changed careers like five times. I had worked for the school district and the police department as a youth counselor and with Child Protective Services. I started thinking there was something missing here with some of the children. Maybe it had something to do with cultural values and family values that keep you focused. The more I talked to people, the more I found out there was a gap. They were missing that part – the family values and being proud of their cultural heritage.
What kind of response do you get from families?
Sometimes, you don't know how much is coming in, but the response I get from parents is that it makes a huge difference. I do a class called " La Cultura Cura," with the idea being that the more we know about our cultural heritage the more we can use those values as a way to focus in life.
Through the program, parents learn some values and tools to instill discipline and self-esteem in their children. What happens with many parents is that they have a lot to offer but they don't know if what they bring has value. They learn that it does.
Why do you think that's so important?
We want children to learn the importance of their cultural heritage because it teaches children to value who they are. Sometimes, parents don't know how to teach that, but it's important to give children cultural pride so that they feel good about themselves.
Parents tend to put aside what they bring to the table in trying to learn about the culture in the U.S. But if children don't learn about their own culture, they lose their roots.
We try to teach both the parents and children that in every culture there's good and negative. We tell them to pull the good from your culture and the good from this culture. Blend the two and focus on the positive.
What nationalities do you work with?
It depends on where we are. In some areas, they're mostly African-American. In a school in Oak Lawn, many were from El Salvador. Last year, we worked with a group of Chinese children in Plano. I just finished a program with Mexican children in Pleasant Grove.
What is your favorite part about teaching people about the culture of the Caribbean?
In "Caribbean Cultural Roots" and "La Cultura Cura ," we show the Caribbean and Latino cultures are a blend of African, Latino, European and indigenous cultures. The African culture is a strong component of Latino culture. I show them how they are all connected. ... What I love to see is how it helps with everything: math, social studies, reading, writing, etc.
Of what part of your own personal cultural heritage are you the most proud?
Most Dominicans are a mix of different cultures. I try to pull the positive parts from all of them. ... Embracing my multicultural heritage gives me a sense of cultural identity and strength.
Laura Griffin is a Dallas freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.