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Greatest Person: Marilu Delgado Empowers Parents

This former teacher turned parent advocate wants to give Latino moms and dads the tools to help their children succeed.

Each week, Patch highlights one person who has made a difference in Mountain View, Los Altos, Palos Alto or Milpitas.

Editor's Note: Updated at 4:34 p.m. with quote from parent.

She no longer lives in Mountain View nor has children in Mountain View schools, but Marilu Delgado spends a lot of time in the city trying to make things better.

"My goal is getting parents to see that they are capable of problem-solving and to learn how to network," said the petite 59-year-old Los Altos resident. "They are grooming themselves so that they are not so intimidated. Fortunately with the CAT parents, there are some that get it."

Delgado has–for the past three years–served as co-president of the  (CAT), a parent development and advocacy group formed at in Mountain View nine years ago Healthy Ventures and Santa Clara County of Public Health. Through CAT, parents in the primarily Spanish-speaking Latino neighborhood near the school, learn how to navigate the educational system to better help their children. More recently, they've became involved in fighting for more traffic lights to ensure the safety of people in the neighborhood.

"We've started to create parent leaders. Some parents had a knack for it and even served as ambassadors for the city." she said. "Some parents are constantly modeling for others."

These parent role-models, according to Delgado, can inspire others to become more active in schools and in their community. But probably most importantly, it serves to motivate the children to aspire for positions of leadership too.

"Many of the parents she has worked with over time are the leaders at the school," said Judy Crates, principal at Castro Elementary. "She taught them how to lobby for themselves."

Borned and raised in South Central Los Angeles, in 1984 Delgado and her husband first moved to a home on Montecito Avenue and then Sleeper Avenue in Mountain View. A health educator, she got her teaching credentials and in 1985 began at in Redwood City. A few years later, Crates became the principal at Hawes. The pair have known one another for 24 years.

"[Delgado] did parent involvement before parent involvement was even a thought," said Crates, who added that because of Delgado Hawes hosted Sunday afternoon workshops for parents and children. "She was a forerunner for parent education."

After a terrible bus accident in Chiapas, Mexico in 1988, which took Delgado six months to recuperate from, she decided to work part-time. The extra time allowed her to make home visits to her Redwood City students.

According to Delgado, her "eureka" moment came in about 1990 when as a translator for a prayer group at , she gained the trust of the commnity and they started to reveal things to her about some of their conditions. She had noticed the same things happening with families in Redwood City.

"I could see similarities in the injustices," Delgado said about issues like education, employment and housing. "Those kids had trauma. How do you learn with that stuff in your head?"

That's when Delgado found an ally in Crates and the Sunday workshops began.

"Judy had that sensitivity. She's a champion for doing things that are different," Delgado said, "to include parents so that all children can achieve."

Delgado, who no longer teaches but instead volunteers her time now, explained that though she works with parents, it's not her role to shape their agenda. "I don't have their needs," she said, reflecting on her dual parent, bilingual, almost middle-class upbringing.

She acknowledges how different her experience has been raising her two boys then that of the population of Latino parents in the Castro City neighborhood.

"Luckily my father was a barber, so his job wasn't as intense and he was able to take us to read," she said, about the contrast to the kids whose parents who can spend that much time with them.

Since her father had been born in the United States and her mother arrived at age 20, they served as role-models for their four daughters. Her father knew how to locate resources in their community to help his children succeed and her mother attended English as a Second Language classes intermittently. After the daughters graduated from high school she attended night classes and receive her high school diploma through adult education.

Proactiveness and initiative is something she hopes the Latino parents learn. This goal even served as the impetus for two-year childcare courses that took place at De Anza College from 2006 to 2008. These gave the Latino parents not only work, but also child rearing skills transferable to their own lives.

"When I met Marilu, she was like a light in my path," said Paula Perez, a mother of four children. "I've learned so much for her and she's encourage us to do something, to get involved with our children."

Perez explained that she's noticed that parents who do not participate in their childrens' education have a harder time. But since she's met Delgado her life has changed.

"She's a very important part of the Mountain View community," Perez said. "She's always willing to help without asking for anything in return."

Delgado's activism has been noted by the different people in the community, even those outside of educational circles. At CAT's recent at Rengstorff Park, many people including some from , and Santa Clara County Department of Health stopped by to distribute information to parents.

"Marilu is a grassroots community activist par excellence," said Ellen Wheeler, Mountain View Whisman School District Board of Trustees president. "She doesn't even live in Mountain View but she's taken the cause of Mountain View parents as her own."

Principal Crates agreed.

"She's given the Latino community a voice. She's empowered them," said Crates. "She's a woman that doesn't have to do any of this. It's pure commitment."

Correction (Sun, Sept. 18 at 5:18 p.m.): Marilu Delgado grew up in the South Central Los Angeles-Watts-Firestone neighborhood and not Watts. The Community in Action Team was formed nine years ago not seven. Lastly, Delgado's mom was born and raised in Sinaloa, Mexico and came to Los Angeles at age 20.

lucille hernandez October 12, 2011 at 03:30 PM
Congratulations Marilu! I worked with Marilu many years ago at Hoover School. We have a wonderful 3rd grade teacher who Marilu empowered to return to school and get her credential. Ninfa Zuno now continues Marilu's work with parents at Hoover School in Redwood City. Thanks Manilu! Lucille Hernandez
Claudia Cruz October 12, 2011 at 04:17 PM
Marilu and CAT actually received public recognition by the Mountain View City Council last night. Check back in a few hours for a short video and article about event. Thanks for the comment Lucille!
Q Kioumars Houshmand October 15, 2011 at 11:36 PM
I am so proud of my wife, Marilu The Greatest. Q Houshmand
Rosario Pastor April 08, 2012 at 11:33 PM
The group of CAT are very proud the our leader Marilu!!!!

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