El Buen Pastor Latino Community Services
Friday, March 24, 2023

Angels Among Us

Angéla Kóczé, a WFU visiting professor who recently won the Ion Ratiu Democracy Award from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for her human rights work with the Roma people of Hungary, invited women from El Buen Pastor to participate in an entrepreneurship project. Utilizing a framework of Dr. Kóczé’s design, undergraduate students and our muchachas worked together to identify each woman’s future career possibilities, evaluating personal assets and challenges to find her best path forward. The students and women were all surprised to discover many similarities in their life situations, and the muchachas feel honored by the ongoing process and are enthusiastic about future endeavors.

Last spring WFBMC medical students Corey Bradley and John Lutrell received a prestigious Schweitzer Fellowship to work with the teens of El Buen Pastor. They met weekly with our students for 8 months, coaching them on habits that impact mental and physical health. Their project was a success, as 18 of the 20 participating students adopted two or more of these practices within the year: replacing at least one snack food with a healthy option every day; participating in any form of physical activity at least four times a week for 30 minutes; improving their total score on the Pediatrics Symptoms Checklist Youth Report by at least seven points; and eliminating any drug, cigarette or alcohol use. We are delighted that John and Corey will continue their work by pairing med student mentors with El Buen Pastor students.

The mothers of preschoolers in our ¡Listos! programs always enjoy their time together, but when raucous laughter travels down the hall from their meeting room throughout the morning, it’s a good guess that Angélica Guzmán of Wake Forest Baptist Health’s Brenner FIT is leading the group through a session of the Positive Discipline curriculum. A peek through the window might reveal a role-play in session, with one mother dressed up as a good fairy delivering candy and hugs to her “children,” while a woman in black storms around scolding her unfortunate “daughter.” The lesson that children need consistency from their parents is dramatized effectively, and the door is opened for women to share their struggles to manage their families’ well-being in an unfamiliar culture.

Angélica’s program is the lynch-pin of the ¡Listos! curriculum. According to Erika Stewart, Director of Family Literacy, Ms. Guzmán has a special talent for meeting women where they are and helping them adopt new behaviors, step by step. Because her relationship with our community stretches back to 2005, Angélica has earned our families’ trust. An immigrant herself, coming from Chili with her husband and four children in 2004, she has a deep understanding of their struggles and admires their ability to maintain a positive attitude in difficult situations. She says they have a beautiful combination of vulnerability and strength that comes from facing hardships.
In addition to the parenting curriculum, this year Angélica hosted our Más Listos group for cooking classes at the new Brenner FIT kitchen at the YMCA, and trained the Latinas who are classroom assistants in our children’s rooms.
We are grateful for Angélica’s long-term commitment to our families.