Extraordinary Parents

Philadelphia, PA.- There are fathers in our community who are distinctive because they quietly lead by example. Some do so simply by spending quality time with family and working hard, others by imparting lessons learned while raising their own grown children to the young adults they serve.  In our Latino culture machismo and all its extreme consequences is a factor that identifies us, but it need not limit us. As we honor fathers and other positive paternal figures at this time of year, we celebrate stories citing examples of successful parenting in our Latino community in Philadelphia. These examples of those among us provide real encouragement and inspiration.

Ismael Navaretto, William Ortiz, Juan DeAngulo, and Richard Bender are all distinguished employees of Congreso de Latinos Unidos, but beyond excellence in the performance of their duties, they are extraordinary parents in the truest sense of the word: EXTRA ORDINARY.

By: Perla Lara – Photos: Melquiades Rodriguez.

Juan DeAngulo: A commitment of living to serve

Congreso’s Vice President of Quality Assurance is of Colombian origin but grew up in Bolivia. Much of his family has been dedicated to social causes, beyond the limits imposed by borders.

Juan DeAngulo now heads the Department of Data Evaluation. He began working in this department about nine years ago, providing staff training and data support. He has an interdisciplinary vision, due to his background as a sociologist with a master’s degree in international economic law, focusing on non-profit agencies.

Juan hails from a family that works for social justice; in Congreso, he discovered a place to develop his skills and abilities while exploring his ideals. Congreso is a unique non-profit organization, building bridges between the different needs of its clients through a Primary Client Model (PCM™). PCM™ guides client interactions to engage clients in behavior change and decision-making that contributes to greater self-sufficiency. After identifying what is important for each individual it serves, Congreso provides high-quality services to make a positive impact on lives.

Juan is the father of 3-year-old Emet, and wanted from the beginning to establish a strong bond with his son. Juan used of all his holidays and accumulated vacation days, to be present during the first months of Emet’s life. Recently his wife has returned to work during the weekends and he takes care of his son and the house, seeing this as a great opportunity to continue solidifying the attachment that has been created between him and his little one.

His wife is Puerto Rican, and this also gives the opportunity for his son to be raised with an awareness of multiculturalism, like his father. He wants to instill in his child the same values of respect for differences. Juan is well aware of the importance of being a good father, and how this influence on the life of his son, in turn, will affect the community and society.

“Living to serve and being the change you want to see,” are the central focuses that make Juan a great worker and an extraordinary father.

William Ortiz: Happiness is contagious

William Ortiz has worked for Congreso since 2004 in the Housing Department, but his dedication to the community goes much further. William is an honest, dedicated, cheerful, compassionate man who brings understanding to his post as Lead Housing Counselor. His vision goes beyond practical and material needs. More than helping with everything related to “Housing”, Will does not lose the focus of the importance of creating a full, healthy home.

The Family is the priority in his life, which is why above all he is a husband, father, and son. Will has succeeded as a great leader at home, and the academic successes of his three children attest to that fact. Although they are now young adults, between the ages of 21 and 25, they continue to live with their families, because they have found an environment conducive to development. As a father, he aspires for each generation to surpass the previous generation.

With a permanent smile, Will not only teaches people how to manage their household finances and prevent debt, he also empowers his clients by providing basic knowledge and tools. He hopes that from such information and self-critical reflection, his clients will make use of these new resources, and apply them in their own way.

Will is very proud to be part of the community he serves. He was born and raised in the same North Philadelphia neighborhood in which he now chooses to live and work. He is dedicated to overcoming obstacles and succeeding at all costs, leading Will to be a true man and an extraordinary father.

Richard Bender: Serenity and enthusiasm for life

Through Richard Bender’s veins courses noble blood in more than one sense–his grandmother is of Mexican aristocracy, and he is descended from indigenous and Puerto Rican ancestors. His personality is a mixture of joy and serenity that inspires confidence. That is why perhaps after having been hired to work in security at Congreso’s reception desk, his ability for hospitality became evident, and he now works in the Education and Workforces Division as an E3 Case Manager. He always strives to find an answer, a means of solving the problems that are brought to him.

His goal is to positively impact at least one person a day — to make a difference. He believes everything starts with a simple smile. His honest kindness sometimes raises disbelief; it is increasingly difficult to find gentle people like Richard with a great passion to serve young people in particular. He wants to be that spark that unleashes energy, inject hope in the future and make the kids feel that someone cares about them and the great value they possess.

Richard strives to serve these young people in the same way he does for his own two children. He conveys joy of living to them by encouraging them to enjoy life whatever their circumstances because negative circumstances are not the ones that determine who you are.

Richard studies at Neumann College and the Art Institute of Philadelphia, and knows firsthand that education is a basic building block to success. He firmly believes that facilitating learning opportunities for others can make the difference in our communities and transform violence into faith– that is what makes an extraordinary human being.

Ismael Navarreto: Integrity and passion for youth

One of the most exciting professions, especially from the perspective of children, is a police officer.

Ismael Navarreto, with only 4 decades of life, had already retired from the force. For nearly fifteen years he served the community as a detective, where his experiences led him to realize the great needs of our neighborhoods. After a couple of years living in retirement, he began to look for a job where he could make an impact. After an exhaustive search, he discovered Congreso provided him the opportunity to combine his knowledge and affection for youth, with service to the community. Ismael received job offers that would have given him a better income, but what he wanted was to really affect the lives of adolescents, which he believes is a priority for society.

Ismael believes that despite digital technology and social networks, there are no major differences between the challenges he faced in his youth and those that teens now face. He is convinced that impacting their lives at this age can make a difference, and that can make them see a future of triumphs rather than frustrations.

Ismael works full time as an educator, creating real ties with the young people with whom he talks at different schools in this area. Working sometimes in small groups and other times in whole classes, he insists that each one of them should realize that they are not alone and that Congreso offers individuals ready to offer help. For him, it is a great satisfaction that many young people came to his office for consultations since he started working in Congreso this year. Doubts or problems about sex, drugs, and intrafamily violence are common topics during these encounters. The former detective wants to instill in them a confidence in themselves, a sense of their value, and a belief in what they are capable of achieving

Breaking the cycle is not easy, but it is not impossible, and his intention is for these young people to begin to formulate goals.

He states that if he had the resources to develop any plan to make a big difference, that in the absence of being able to buy parents, he would invest in education. Children need to learn not only academically, but to manage their lives responsibly. They need mentors who give them the training they ask for; being there for them is a priority.

Ismael has three children, who are now young adults, but for him, it is not enough to have fulfilled his role as father and as a public servant, even as he risked his own life. He has given himself totally to everything he has done which should be enough to feel satisfied, but his genuine love for others makes him reach further, making him an extraordinary man.

Each of these stories highlights locale parents in our midst. No matter the choices we have made thus far, any person can be inspired by these extraordinary fathers and make the choice to be a better parent.