These teenagers really do care. A group of Huntington High School student mentors and their mentees modeled what genuine kindness means along with a sense of giving by Crocheting for a Cause and donating more than 100 hats for newborns and 15 lap blankets for patients in palliative care at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown.
Veteran Huntington UFSD faculty member Eileen Gonzalez is one of the advisors for the high school’s English language learners’ scholar mentoring program and she thought this new initiative would be of value to participants.
“I was thinking of way our students could give back to the community,” Ms. Gonzalez said. “The ELL scholar mentoring program provides mentors to our English language learners who are new to the country.”
The mentors are high-achieving English language learners or former ELLs. “They are strong role models for our newcomers and ease their transition into our high school,” Ms. Gonzalez said. “They meet with their mentees to provide support, friendship and guidance on navigating life in America. I wanted the mentors to get involved in a positive activity that they could share with their mentees.”
Ms. Gonzalez wanted the mentors to get involved in a positive community-based activity that they could share with their mentees. “Serving the community was the focus,” she said. “The rest is history. Our Crochet for a Cause group started with two and steadily grew to fifteen students over the course of the project.”
When all was said and done the group crocheted over 100 hats for newborns and 15 lap blankets for patients in palliative care at St. Catherine’s of Siena Medical Center on Route 25A in Smithtown.
“I am so proud of the students,” Ms. Gonzalez said. “We met once a week, but most of the crocheting took place outside of school hours. The students were so motivated to reach our goal of 100 hats.”
Last Friday, Ilsi Martinez Euceda, a senior mentor in the program joined one of her mentees, junior Yessy Bonilla Lainez and Ms. Gonzalez to present the gifts to St. Catherine’s. Judy Goris-Moroff, the district’s director of world languages, ENL and bilingual programs also tagged along in support of the initiative.
“The highlight of our visit was stopping by the maternity ward where the girls offered the hats to new moms for their newborns,” Ms. Gonzalez said. “It was such a positive experience. We will be sure to keep crocheting to make a difference in so many people’s lives.”
Ms. Gonzalez came to Huntington UFSD in 1991 to work as an English as a second language teacher. She’s had the opportunity to work several years at each grade level with experience in kindergarten through twelfth grade.
Ms. Gonzalez has taught at Huntington High School, J. Taylor Finley Middle School, Southdown Primary School, Woodhull Intermediate School, Huntington Intermediate School and Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School.
“I have had the opportunity to meet so many amazing teachers at each level and each experience has built on my role today the district’s ENL instructional coach,” Ms. Gonzalez said. “My classroom door is always open to teachers, observers and my mentees.”
Ms. Gonzalez holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees from Stony Brook University in Hispanic languages and literature and in linguistics with specialization in teaching English to speakers of other languages. She also earned a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies at Stony Brook with a focus on secondary education.
“I have served as building translator and parent liaison throughout my career bridging the gap between our Spanish-speaking community and schools,” Ms. Gonzalez said.
The longtime faculty member holds state teaching certifications in TESOL, Spanish, Italian and French.
“Coming back to the high school this year has brought me full circle in my career,” Ms. Gonzalez said. “I’m in a position to be able to help so many students who may not have that support most students have at home. The students actually call me ‘Mama Gonzo’ and know that they can come to me for help and support.”