“I really believe that for me to be able to keep Angel safe, the only way that I can do that is to build a stronger community,” Yoellie Iglesias, Executive Director, Madre Latina told the CT Mirror. “And every time that I help a family in anything that they need, I really believe that that family will also work to keep my child safe.” That inspired Iglesias to start Madre Latina, a non-profit organization created in 2011 to educate, connect and empower Hispanic women and mothers.
Dubbed “The mother of all Mothers,” for assisting mothers like her in raising their children, Iglesias is known as the go-to person for help in the Waterbury community.
“Madre Latina is an organization that is committed to seeing young women realize their dreams,” William R. Rybczyk, President/CEO of New Opportunities, Inc., said. “Through the commitment and dedication of Yoellie Iglesias and her team, the organization has impacted countless lives in the Waterbury community. By empowering young women to reach their potential, they are committed to seeing the next generation of Latinas in the Waterbury area succeed and drive.”
Young Representative of Waterbury is one of those empowering programs. Alahannis Lopez-Zea, a sophomore at UConn, participated in the leadership and civic engagement skills curriculum as a high school student. “I apply all the skills and knowledge that I learned to my adult and college life,” Lopez-Zea said.
“I reached my dream because I had a community to support me,” said Iglesias. Originally from Puerto Rico, she believes Hispanic-Latino parents need support in educating their children, but they can’t just leave it up to the school system.
“You need to take responsibility and make sure that your child is successful. When I go to open house, I give them my card and I tell them, ‘I am going to be your best friend, but if Angel (her son) falls behind without me knowing, I am going to be your worst enemy. Because if Angel needs anything – anything – you need to call me and I will do whatever to make sure he gets the tutors.’
Iglesias is critical of an education system that is not reflective and inclusive of the community it serves. “You don’t see enough Latinos, you don’t see parent liaisons who speak your language. You don’t see teachers who can understand you or understand what is going on with you or your family. I know that they are trying to get more teachers who are bilingual. They are really trying.”
Struggling with the same staffing shortages faced by districts across the country, Hartford Public Schools (HPS) launched the Paso a Paso Puerto Rico Recruitment Program to fill teacher vacancies ahead of the 2022-2023 school year.
Suggestion: Hartford Public Schools Recruit Bilingual Teachers ’Paso A Paso’
Iglesias initially attended Naugatuck Valley College in Waterbury before enrolling at Springfield College. She went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in 1999 and a master’s degree in education in 2004.
When asked what advice she has for parents, Iglesias said, “To not forget that they are the first teacher of their children, and they need to remember that we are the first role model. By that, I mean that we, as parents, should always remember that our children are looking at us. I don’t want my son to imitate anyone else. I want him to say I want to be like Mommy.”
Cover Photo: Yoellie Iglesias at a Madre Latina event.
Publisher’s Note: This is story is in part, an aggregate from She helps Latina moms be more involved in their children’s education.
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