I’m a Product of My Community

By: Natalie Torres-Haddad, Award winning author of Financially Savvy in 20 Minutes

I am a product of my community and my education as a Salvadorian-American.

One of the major reasons why I am an advocate for dual literacy in our education system is because growing up in a bilingual home and now being married to an Arabic husband we hope to instill a third language to our future children. I grew up in a predominately Spanish speaking community, Inglewood CA.

I was born in El Salvador, in the midst of a terrible civil war in the 80’s that rattled our country, my family fled from El Salvador for the US for survival and hoped for temporary sanctuary from the violence and turmoil. After 13 years of that civil war my family had settled down and laid roots in Inglewood, CA.

I have gotten the best opportunities because of being bilingual and overcoming adversity every day

My father’s rule in the home was Spanish only and outside of the home, my mom’s rule was English only in the hopes my brother and I would practice both languages.

Photo of Natalie Torres with Father

I felt fortunate that our schools had the option to take all Spanish classes, then in 3rd grade we would test to be transferred to all English classes. I struggled in having confidence in either language, but luckily, I could I check out as many books as I needed. A problem I found in most books that I would read in Spanish, was they never represented my culture. As I grew older I learned most authors were not from Latino descendent. This inspired me to someday become an author to help contribute to enrich the diverse cultures we are so lucky to be surrounded by in our communities.

Photo of Natalie Torres Graduating

Education and the strong support system my parents created played a major part in my success. As an immigrant and a first-generation college student, it was overwhelming to try to figure out what the right steps were to take. I attended the freshmen Chicano Latino Studies Department’s orientation for first-generation college students with my parents. A professor said, “look to your left and to your right, because one out of three of you will actually graduate.” I couldn’t believe what he had said, but as he began to explain the challenges we would face in our college career juggling time allocation, money, family responsibilities and cultural expectations, I understood the horrific statistics and how that easily could happen to me.

This new awareness fueled me to work hard to accomplish the many goals I had set out as a child. I set out to finish graduate school, running a successful NPO called LA’s Prom Closet, worked full time, learning the ins and outs of being a homeowner and eventually, finishing my award winning first book. I sum this up because I know I can write another book based on my story, but my point is most of my life, I have gotten the best opportunities because of being bilingual and overcoming adversity every day. I get hired to speak to major corporations, schools and universities about not letting our challenges stop us and use what we think are limitations but really are what makes us unique. Financial literacy and advocating bilingual literacy is what makes me feel so blessed to get up every day. Not to mention the perks of getting to travel, I’ve been able to travel to over 30 countries and live so many of my dreams.

Photo of Natalie Torres

Ever since that freshman orientation all those years ago, I was determined never to be a negative statistic as I just don’t want to survive in life, but I want to thrive in all its’ glory.

Sandra Mercuri
Author: Sandra Mercuri

Dr. Mercuri is a nationally and internationally recognized educational consultant in the area of second language acquisition, dual language education, and curriculum integration for biliteracy development. She has over 28 years of experience in teaching in K-12 schools and at the university level in Argentina and the United States. After retiring as a professor from the University of Texas System, she continued to work on research on the development of academic language across the content areas, the use of translanguaging practices for language transfer, and the effect of long-term professional development on dual language, bilingual and ESL teachers’ instructional practices. Dr. Mercuri provides professional development for teachers and administrators as well as for parents. She presents at national and international conferences on issues of second language acquisition and bilingualism, dual language education, translanguaging pedagogy, and ESL strategies. Dr. Mercuri has published articles in the TESOL Quarterly, Talking Points, EJLTS, JMER, TESOL Connections, MEXTESOL, and the NABE journal as well as the Spanish professional journals The Colombian Journal of Bilingual Education: GIST and the Revista Educación y Pedagogía and more than twelve book chapters. Dr. Mercuri is the author of the book titled Supporting Literacy Through Science: The Challenge of Teaching...

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