Difference Maker: Tsvetelina Fuentes
Updated: Oct 2
“I hope more people think they are capable and decide to be curious about different ways of accomplishing something. I also hope more people of all ages participate in activities and actions that promote inclusion and diversity.” This encouraging statement comes from Tsvetelina Fuentes, who, for the past 13 years, has created environments in classrooms where students felt cared for, encouraged, and believed in. This type of environment cannot just stay in the classroom, it needs to exist outside of school in our daily lives, which is exactly what Tsvetelina has achieved.
After noticing a decline in students' academics when quarantine started, she knew students would fall behind, and something needed to be done. Tsvetelina reached out to Sandy Schroeder, Director of Community Engagement, with the idea for some of Valley’s Voice Youth to tutor students that needed extra help with academics. The idea was presented to several Valley’s Voice high school and college students and they were excited about the opportunity. From the start, Tsvetelina said that it was “so rewarding to work with young people who are so motivated and driven to provide service to the community.”
The “Tu Guia” or “your guide” summer tutoring program started with 18 students and nearly doubled by the end of the summer. One reason for its success was that when someone is passionate about something, others pay attention, start following and join in. The passion and dedication from Tsvetelina and tutors like Britney Chavez, Olivia Soukup, Victoria Aragon, Claire Krueger, Joslyn Sanchez, and Alex Lange, inspired other students and teachers to join. Tutors would come to Tsvetelina daily with their new ideas, and she saw how much heart the students were putting into their work.
Another reason for the success of Tu Guia was the connection that the tutors were making with the students. These connections help build relationships, which encourages social and emotional learning. Tsvetelina taught the importance of these connections in workshops she led at the start of Tu Guia. When their parents signed them up for this program, these students now had a tutor who believed in them and pushed for their success. This push gave students the tools needed to increase interest in their academics. A Tu Guia student’s math skills have improved drastically from the previous year, receiving praise from a teacher only a week into the school year. Not only have there been significant growth in student's skills, but the tutors have also flourished. This valuable project is teaching diversity, equity, and cultural awareness.
During the summer tutoring, the students were not the only ones learning. Tsvetelina knew that social and emotional learning started with support from parents. For seven weeks, Tsvetelina taught parent workshops that focused on self-awareness, self-regulation, relationship skills, problem-solving, social and emotional skills, and decision making. These workshops taught parents how to engage and motivate their children. Tsvetelina's secret for parental education was getting them to act like kids. When kids are silly and creative they get excited about learning, causing them to learn best. Throughout the workshops, parents worked to increase productivity, memory tools, motivation, and gratitude. All of these skills were focused on parenting, but also translated to other areas of their lives, making them better people and professionals. Throughout the seven weeks, the parents were in an environment where they felt heard and valued. The workshop created a place where group discussion was encouraged, gratitude was abundant, and a community was formed. Many parents did not want the sessions to end and even described that the whole experience of Tu Guia as life-changing.
Tsvetelina fills up her life with as many opportunities to educate as she can. Aside from being a Multilingual Teacher, helping with Tu Guia, and leading the parent workshops, she is the founder of Fuentes Learning, LLC, and is a brain health coach and speaker. She works with Eagle Valley Behavioral Health and U.B.U to bring the community an email campaign called the weekly Pause. The hope is that the Pause can be a ray of sunshine or hope into someone’s life, by allowing them to take a break from the craziness. The weekly email addresses multiple modes of understanding and learning how to improve one's overall wellbeing. This is one of her favorite projects, offered in both English and Spanish. Each week they provide video interviews from community members that relate to each topic. She encourages everyone to subscribe!
Community is valuable to all of us. Tsvetelina has been doing incredible things to bring people together, and provide important resources. We applaud her for all of her hard work and dedication to the community.
If you are interested in receiving emails from the pause, sign up here. To learn more about Tu Guia email firstname.lastname@example.org