At first glance, Esmeralda Huerta seems like a typical 30-something Californian. When I first met her, I was struck by her quiet confidence. She is beautiful, but unassuming. Reserved, but flashes a wide smile that lights up the room. Esmeralda lives in the greater Sacramento area with her husband and pre-teen son. She enjoys reading, drinking coffee and playing board games. She spends time volunteering at church and never gets tired of watching old Friends reruns. But there is so much more to Esmeralda. Peek with me into Esmeralda’s life for a glimpse of her fascinating story.
Esmeralda’s life has not been without challenges. For instance, she had the unique experience of growing up as a first-generation American Latina. She also spent several years parenting her young son alone as a single mother. Currently working at a local hospital as a Violence Intervention Specialist, she does follow-up care for youth and young adults who have survived violent assaults, including stabbings and shootings. It is easy to imagine the calming effect her quiet confidence must have on children who are recovering from traumatic situations.
Several years ago, when Esmeralda was a single mother to her then-toddler aged son, she learned about an opportunity to take a local parenting class called Strengthening Families. She had heard that every family, regardless of its origin, history, or makeup, could benefit from the training. Esmeralda felt that, as her son’s solo parent, she had an even higher responsibility to learn all she could about how to make her family healthy and strong. Even though her life was incredibly busy, the deep desire to make her son’s childhood sweet and memorable outweighed the pull to take it easy so she committed to faithfully attending the 11-week class.
Esmeralda enjoyed the program, meeting and getting to know other families and practicing new skills with them during class time. Her family coach checked in with her after every lesson, answering her questions and asking how things were going. As a single mom, finding someone who was interested in and cared about her little family’s day-to-day experience was very special!
The practice of spending 15 minutes a day of child-led activity, one of the concepts in the class, changed her family’s life for the better. She also began to have family meals where she included purposeful questions about her son’s day. These small changes, made when her son was little, have continued until today – and now, even as a pre-teen, she and her son enjoy cellphone-free, positive meals together. When her husband came into the picture, he joined the fun!
Growing up a first generation Latina in America, Esmeralda rarely saw opportunities for Spanish-speaking parents to learn new tools as a family. Because of her success in improving her own family’s life, she made a goal to somehow give back to her community. When she heard that Delta Prevention, a local drug and alcohol prevention organization, was looking for a Spanish-speaking family coach to lead Strengthening Families classes, she knew it was a position she was meant to take.
Esmeralda has thoroughly enjoyed leading other families through the material that enriched her life so greatly. One of the lessons centers on the effects of drug and alcohol use among minors-underage drinking can be a hot-button issue for Latino families because many of their countries of origin have younger legal ages for drinking. During this particular class, scientific data was presented which clearly demonstrated how alcohol harms the brains of developing children. Although this information was startling to the parents, many knew, from experience, that drinking at younger ages was not a healthy activity, even if legal. That evening, many parents and children made promises to each other, signing declarations not to abuse alcohol or drink before the legal age.
Esmeralda now encourages families to take advantage of local Strengthening Families classes which continue to be offered in the Greater Sacramento area. “Whether you are a strong family unit, a single-parent home, or if your family is falling apart, this program is designed to give you new tools and skills to strengthen your family. Family is worth fighting for and committing to this program is a small sacrifice to pay in return for a healthier home.” She has always believed that there are many social benefits in our communities when family units are strong. Her experience taking then facilitating classes with Delta Prevention helped her family not only grow stronger, but flourish.
Delta Prevention exists to empower families by strengthening their skills and helping them build strong, healthy relationships, navigate stressful life challenges and manage communication and behavioral problems. You can learn more about the Family Strengthening class and other resources on their website: www.deltaprevention.org