Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) recently asked Radelkys Juarez, Employee Relations Equity Manager for the district, what National Hispanic Heritage Month means to her.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is annually celebrated from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, recognizing the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.
Hailing from the Dominican Republic, Radelkys moved to the United States at 18 and quickly adopted Indiana as her new home. Despite the language and cultural challenges, she completed high school and then earned a bachelor’s degree at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
A deep passion for helping her community led to a job as an ESL College and Career Readiness Coordinator at IPS, allowing her to assist students who faced the same language barrier as she did. After helping to boost an ENL graduation rate above 90%, she found a new challenge as the district’s Employee Relations Equity Manager. Her new purpose is guaranteeing that EVERYONE has a say in decision-making.
Q—What does Hispanic Awareness Month mean to you?
A—This is a time for me to recognize, celebrate, and honor the unique and vibrant culture of the Hispanic community and its contributions to American society. It’s a time for me to reflect and appreciate the vast diversity among Hispanics, and to understand the unique challenges they face in our community. By celebrating Hispanic Awareness Month, together we can work towards a brighter future where Hispanics are seen, heard, and respected.
Q—What do you think people should know about being Hispanic?
A—Being Hispanic encompasses many different cultures, nations, and ethnicities. While there are some customs and practices that are common across the Hispanic community, there is still a wide range of diversity within the community that should be respected and celebrated. Additionally, people should understand that being Hispanic can be a source of pride and identity for many people and should not be assumed to be negative or that all Hispanics share the same experiences.
Q—How will you and/or your family celebrate the month?
A—My family celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month by connecting with our community and participating in local Hispanic festivals and events. We also enjoy trying new Hispanic dishes and enjoying local Hispanic music artists. Yes, Hispanic Heritage Month is special because it allows us to recognize and celebrate our Hispanic culture and heritage.
Q—.How does being of Hispanic Heritage influence your job at IPS?
A—I have been part of the IPS community for seven years now, and my current role as an Employee Relations Equity Manager has made me feel like part of a bigger extended family. My cultural background gives me a unique perspective and understanding of the issues that are experienced by people who may not have a platform to make their voices heard. Therefore, I am sure that my heritage has influenced me to fight and see all processes through an equity lens of eyes, as I can help create great opportunity through our policies and procedures not only for our Hispanic community but for all minorities in our community by considering all viewpoints, as well as ensure respect and inclusivity for everyone.
Q—Who was your most influential Hispanic person or family member growing up and why?
A—The most important people in my life are my abuelitas (grandmothers). But today I am going to choose my great-grandmother, Chola, who was a glowing light even in our toughest moments. She was always cheerful and vibrant, sharing her music and stories filled with hope and joy. Even in her final days, she stayed positive and knew that everything would work out. Her legacy lives on with me and reminds me to never lose faith.
She was a pillar of positivity, working tirelessly in the fields, she spent her time growing rice and taking care of the animals on the farm. She birthed and raised five daughters, she worked hard to take care of her daughters and family. She inspired me with her strength and resilience, which is a very resilient way to describe being Hispanic.