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A Patient and Kind Friend to Newcomers

Parapro Helps Immigrant Students Adjust, Learn English

It’s an extraordinary claim: During her 10 years working with middle school students, Missdalia Rios-Segundo says, not one has ever treated her with disrespect.

But when you meet her, it makes sense.

“They are good kids,” Rios-Segundo said, as if it’s that simple. And, really, it is. Rios, who has workedas a English-language learner paraprofessional at Lee Middle/High School for a decade, is simply kind.

“I’ve never had a situation where I’ve seen a student closed off to her,” said seventh-grade science teacher Janene Parney. “Children kind of sense the character of individuals. She is always so kind and patient and they recognize it and respect her for it.

“I’ve never heard a bad word about her from the students or the teachers, not even a muttering behind her back.”

Instead, students gravitate to Rios-Segundo, Parney said. “It’s nothing but a rally around an individual, completely because of her character.

ELL paraprofessional Missdalia Rios-Segundo works with Giovanni Chitic

“She a glue in this school.”

Rios-Segundo works with newcomers to the U.S. in sixth through eighth grades who come from Spanish-speaking countries and other areas of the world. In general-education classes, she helps them comprehend and keep up.

She recently helped sixth-grader Giovanni Chitic with a book in the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series. “She helps me become a better reader,” Giovanni said.

Rios-Segundo takes notes and completes assignments right along with her students, ensuring that when they ask a question she can help. “I definitely love my job and what I do every day with the kids. I love the interaction,” she said. “If I can make them smile a little, that is good.”

Teacher Emily Colletti said Rios-Segundo uses her special touch to make students feel at ease.

“She provides them with different strategies to be successful. They are very comfortable with her,” Colletti said. “She’s one of the kindest, most compassionate people I’ve ever worked with and she’s always looking for ways to help.”

Shining Bright in the Community

Outside class, Rios-Segundo leads middle schoolers in Lee Youth Trained to Serve, which includes 15 sixth- through eighth-graders who meet regularly for service projects. LYTS recently collected about $135 for DeVos Children’s Hospital by hosting Gridiron Giving at a recent football game, collecting donations in jars and selling doughnuts.

The group is now planning to volunteer at Feeding America West Michigan before beginning their next project, Operation Christmas Child, for which they pack shoeboxes with toys, hygiene items and school supplies for children in other countries. Last year, they collected 150 shoeboxes for the annual project.

Rios-Segundo said she wants middle schoolers to see how they can brighten people’s day.

“I like to help out the community,” she said. “I find so many good people out there and they are helping. I have been in situations when I have gotten help myself. I want the kids to see they can help someone else. We live in a community that’s not the wealthiest, but even if they don’t have a lot we can still give back to somebody.”

Seventh-grader Nuria Pablo said she appreciates the opportunity. “I wanted to join because we are helping kids in need,” she said.

Added seventh-grader Zusette Quinonez, “What I’m looking forward to do is help others and (Rios-Segundo) inspires me because she likes to help others.”

Missdalia Rios-Segundo is known as a pillar at Lee Middle/High School

Once a Newcomer Herself

Rios-Segundo immigrated to the United States at age 9 with her parents and three siblings 30 years ago. They came from Durango, Mexico, for work and education. She lived in California for one year and Illinois for 12 before moving to Michigan 17 years ago, settling in the Godfrey-Lee community with her husband.

Mom to Abel, a Lee High School junior, and Anahi, a Godfrey Elementary School third-grader, she knows what it’s like for students to begin school in a new country. “It was very difficult,” she said.

Now she brings her experiences to students and families, many who use her as a liaison. “I think that is why I love my job — I know where they are coming from.”

The Godfrey-Lee community is family-oriented and that makes it special, she said. “I think it’s the closeness you can get to the families and community. It’s small enough to know everyone. If your children are out with someone you know they are in good company.”

Lee Middle/High School Assistant Principal Rendal Todd said Rios-Segundo is a “pillar in the building.”

“Missdalia always has a positive outlook and comes in every day willing to help the students where they need to have support,” Todd said. “She is very integrated into the community and always willing to help.

“She’s a great natured person to talk to and be around and cares a lot about our children,” he added. “She goes above and beyond without ever being asked.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.


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