Mamitas y Escritoras

The Thriving Neighbors Initiative is a marvelous, maternal machination.

Mamitas y Escritoras
Third- and fourth-grade students designed this mural for the TNI portable classroom—where the moms spend much of their time. The poppies and cacti represent their roots in California and in Mexico. View full image. Photo by Joanne Lee
Mothers put pen to paper with the Thriving Neighbors Initiative.

Some say that behind every good kid is a great mom. Meet Liz Molina, Juanita Escamilla, Marlen Monroy, and Socorro Madrigal, four women who live in the Greater Washington community of San Jose. They’re a dynamic part of the Thriving Neighbors Initiative, run by SCU’s Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education. Recently they were asked: What’s the hardest job in the world?

The question was posed to 35 mothers by Juan Velasco, an associate professor of English, at the second annual Family Engagement Day, held on campus in May. One woman’s answer: “Ser una buen mama.” To be a good mom. Velasco told them that to be a good mom you need to take care of yourself first. He handed them each a notebook and took them through writing and meditation exercises. Molina, Escamilla, Monroy, and Madrigal were already proud moms and community leaders. They learned that day that they were also escritoras—writers.

“In the process of writing, I’m healing my wounds,” says Monroy, who now writes daily. Molina carries that notebook with her everywhere. Escamilla plans to add a writing component to her exercise program. And Madrigal has spent this summer writing her very own life story.

Me gusta hacer todo,” Molina says. I like to do everything. The mother of three earned the Thriving Neighbors Leadership of Excellence award for her involvement and dedication. The past two years she has led the iPad Tutoring Program, a mothers discussion group, and a lunchtime craft program for girls. She also treats Thriving Neighbors student assistants from SCU like family. “People that I know here, building relationships with them has been beautiful,” she says.

Escamilla and Monroy run the Camino a la Salud health program which offers Zumba, yoga, and walking group activities. Monroy teaches Zumba four days a week. Escamilla, a mother of four whose 8-year-old daughter attends Washington Elementary, says the walks remind her of the four-day pilgrimages she made in her hometown of Jalisco, Mexico. Escamilla is also president of the school’s reading club and collaborates with students in Professor Lucia Varona’s Spanish classes. And this spring, Erika Francks ’17 led yoga twice a week through their half twists and downward dogs. “It’s about knowing each other but also about them getting to know the community,” Escamilla explains.

Over the summer, Socorro Madrigal continued work on a local air-quality project with TNI. And she took a class taught by Thelma Valadez ’17, a Jean Donovan fellow, on The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros. Valadez, who emigrated from Mexico to California in high school, guided mothers through the novel and had them write their own stories. Her goal: “I want them to be the authors of their own lives.”

Molina, Escamilla, Madrigal, and Monroy at Washington Elementary School. Photo by Joanne Lee

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