MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, Ariz. -- A station Marine was presented with the opportunity to help a local school by finding Spanish-speaking interpreters for the school’s first quarter parent-teacher conference.
Sgt. Steven Hernandez, Combat Service Support Detachment 133 motor transport technician, was asked by his wife, Monica Seles, H.L. Suverkup principal’s assistant, if there was any chance some Marines who spoke English and Spanish would mind volunteering to translate for the conference.
“The Marines saved us,” said Dr. Kris Reed, H.L. Suverkup elementary school principal. “This was the first time (Marines) have ever helped us with this. Normally we have more aids, but because of funding issues, we had to cut back on employees this year. Usually we use anyone on our staff that can speak both English and Spanish to translate. But this year, we had a real tough time finding interpreters.”
That was when Seles decided to ask her husband if he knew any Marines who would mind volunteering, said Reed.
Hernandez said he used to mentor children before, so he figured there had to be Marines who wouldn’t mind volunteering and helping the community.
“I told her I’d ask around and find some Marines to translate for the parent-teacher conference,” said Hernandez a native of Queens, N.Y. “So I went back to my unit, asked around, and thankfully there were some Marines who didn’t mind volunteering.”
Out of the fifteen volunteers who helped translate, five were Marines. The parent-teacher conferences ran from Oct. 4 - 7, and the Marines helped from 5 - 7 p.m. each night.
“Having a translator is important because without one, parents won’t be able to fully understand how their child is doing,” said Tiffany Brokaw, H.L. Suverkup elementary sixth grade teacher.
“I know a little Spanish, but without a translator, all I can do is point at the report card and say ‘malo, bueno y muy bueno,’” added Brokaw. “Having an interpreter there also allows me to talk about any behavioral issues and I can give them praise or add any other comments. It’s also good for the Marines to become a part of the community since they do play such a major role in the city.”
“I liked the fact that there was someone here to translate for the teacher and I,” said Graciela Gilmon, mother of kindergarten student Edgar Gil Reyes, with the help of a Marine translator. “The Marine was very polite and it’s good to see Marines out in the community.”
“We received great comments from the teachers and parents,” said Reed.
“All I would like to say to the Marines is ‘thank you very much for all the help,’” added Reed, who said she hopes to continue the relationship between the Marines and school children.
For some, this was also a chance to help more than just the children.
“I figure I’d volunteer myself to help out in the community and to help a fellow sergeant,” said Sgt. Gabriel Castillo, CSSC-133 heavy equipment mechanic a native of Phoenix.
“We’re already helping the world, so why not help out the community, especially when it comes to kids. They are so much fun to be around. I come from a big family so I know what it’s like to be around kids.”
The Marines who volunteered not only set a positive example on the community, but also on young Marines, said Hernandez.
“Four of the five Marines who volunteered where (noncommissioned officers),” added Hernandez. “It’s good for young Marines to see NCO’s getting involved. If the ‘example’ can take out time and volunteer, there is no reason why young Marines can’t. It shows they too can help others instead of just thinking about themselves.”