Gabriela Cruzado is a parent and participant at United South End Settlements. She has two kids here, one of whom is in the infant room in our Early Childhood Education program while her older son comes to our after school program, club48. Gaby works near USES at the South End Health Community Center as a dental assistant and she is also a resident of the South End. At USES, she is enrolled in the Power of Parenting program and serves as a parent leader. Through the Power of Parenting, she recently became a coaching participant as well.
Can you tell us more about yourself and some background information on life growing up? What was going on in your life before you joined USES?
My mom moved like every two years so we lived in Dorchester, Roxbury, Roslindale, Hyde Park, back to Dorchester and Roxbury. I never lived in the South End growing up. I was a good kid, a tomboy who loved sports. I felt like I had to defend myself all the time so I was always with the boys and really got into sports. Any sport that was out there I did it. My first year in high school I got held back because I had all F’s; it was a really tough year in my household because my mom was dating an addict who would sometimes get aggressive. I wanted attention and never got any, and I was the only child at home at the time. The school system did not support me; I got pushed to the 10th grade even though I was only performing at a 9th grade level. In the 11th grade, I started playing football; I was the only girl on the team. I think football really changed me- it was there where I met my son’s dad and unexpectedly got pregnant. Luckily, the principal and teachers supported me and made it possible for me take two classes at home to ensure that I would graduate on time.
I was a single mom when I had Troy going to RCC and working full time at Applebee’s. At the time, I was living with my mom and her boyfriend; I really did not like him but when I tried to confront my mom about him I was kicked out of the house. I became homeless, and lived in less than ideal circumstances (with family members, and close friends) until I went into a shelter and eventually obtained housing in the South End. I have been here for four years with my eight year old son Troy and baby Logan.
How did you find out about USES and how did you first become involved?
I first found out about USES through Tammy Pena who works with me and is a parent here. She is always putting up flyers at work, talking about USES and asking if I will get involved. I am a Board member at Blackstone, so I was usually doing the same thing she was but for a different school. I saw all the flyers she had been putting up and when I became pregnant with my youngest, Logan, I realized I was going to need daycare. Tammy encouraged me to check out USES, and get on the waitlist. She also helped me to connect with the Director of ECE to find out more about the program and secure my spot. Originally, they did not have spot for me but last minute something opened up; this reaffirms my belief that everything happens for a reason.
Both of your kids are enrolled in our programs, what made you decide to place them here?
I came to USES with Logan, my infant, in October 2018 when a spot luckily opened up right in time for me to go back to work. Originally, I did not plan to enroll my eldest, but he was having trouble with bullying in his after-school program. Once I realized that it was becoming a bigger challenge, I decided to enroll Troy in club48. The moment that Logan joined the Infant Room, I became aware of all that USES has to offer and was excited to become a part of it. I was already involved in so many other areas in the South End- always networking, that it seemed like a natural progression to learn more about USES.
I am that person who likes to be in the middle of everything and aware of what the community has to offer.
What has it been like being a member of USES and having your kids enrolled here?
Great so far! I feel like this place has so much to offer. I recently attended the community meeting about the future of USES and the different properties. I went in not knowing much, but I was open-minded and humbled by everyone’s opinions and it reaffirmed my wish to have my family continue being a part of this community. Ever since that day, I was like wow! I did not know there was so much history behind the organization.
Have you noticed any positive changes in your children or your family dynamic since coming to USES?
Yes, I recently started the Power of Parenting program at USES. I am a single mom and although I think people close to me say I am a great mom there are still many aspects of motherhood that I continue to struggle with and work on. For the first time in my life, I am getting help to address some of the trauma that occurred in my childhood. I think, personally, that it is important for people to acknowledge their challenges and get support; I didn’t want to drag my children down with me. I am changing little by little, I am becoming more open minded. I am also seeing a coach, which really helps alongside the classes. Yes, it is helpful to be in the class, but it is important to have someone you can actually reflect with, and talk about how the things you are learning and feeling will impact your day-to day or will change the way you parent. Having a coach makes all the difference!
What is your favorite part about our youth programs? If you were recommending this program to other parents what would you say?
I have recommended the Youth Programs to other parents. I never have had a problem with the center; they are always very communicative. club48 really knows how to handle all the kids, making sure they get their homework done and also incorporate a lot of different ways of learning. I just tell people to go walk in the building and you will see for yourself.
You recently became enrolled in Coaching and the Power of Parenting. What motivated you to participate in these opportunities?
One thing that I would say about me is that I am very good at finding resources, networking and getting involved in my community. I love helping other people, but I didn’t want to be that person that is so involved outside yet fails to look at what’s happening inside her household. I didn’t want to turn around one day and realize my household was a mess! I need to help myself first, so that I can continue helping others.
What are some skills or tools you have learned so far in the Power of Parenting?
I am more aware of what I am doing. Before my perspective was that I am the mom, I should be strict and set rules that they have to follow. Now, when I am frustrated or angry I am self-aware and realize I can handle things differently. I can ask my oldest son what he thought about the situation and ask how he feels to try to understand, rather than react to the behavior.
What is your favorite part of the Power of Parenting?
The fact that I can practice what I am learning in class.
What do you hope to accomplish or get out of coaching?
The funny part about that is I consider myself a life coach to other people. I would always give advice to people about different areas of their life such as getting in shape at the gym, but I would never help with parenting or children. I hope to learn a lot more about the areas I want to improve in and then have the ability to share what I learn with others.
What has been your favorite part of coaching?
I have a great coach! I love being able to meet consistently and she explains things to me from a new perspective and that is really helpful.
Is there something that you have done/ taken part in, while at USES that you are most proud of and why?
I would say the parenting class because it is really hard to admit that you need that help. It is hard to look at yourself and realize that you are not perfect, that no one is, and it makes you want to better yourself. I always wanted to be a better mom, even though others might think I am an amazing parent, I felt like that was not always the case. I want to help myself so I am proud that I am taking the class. When I tell colleagues and friends that I am taking a parenting class, some are supportive while others are a little judgmental or say they would never want to be told how to parent. It is not like that; to me that is just close-minded, I am always trying to improve!
Would you recommend coaching to other parents? If so, how would you describe it and what would you tell them they would get out of it?
I would recommend it to many people, in fact to most of the people I know! Finding the initial motivation is the hard piece but you will gain self-confidence and self-love. You will be happier about what you are doing in life. Sometimes we get really low and we need to try something new. If you try it and it doesn’t work, let me know! I only say this because I am confident that others will gain from it as well. Coaching is something that is all about you. It is focused on what you want to achieve in any category of life. It is like having that mom, brother, or sister that you always wished you had. That person who cares, listens, and is there for you, which is something that everyone wants.
Do you think there are benefits to being involved in the same organization where your kids are receiving education? If yes how so?
You always want to know what you signed your kids up for and you never want to be blindsided. With this generation, you never know what goes on and there are so many misleading representations of organizations on social media. I have so many friends that are scared to put their kids in different daycares because of all the stuff they read online; there are so many bad things shown these days on the internet. I like how I can be more involved and I have a voice for my family and myself. I am here 24/7 and I know exactly what is going on in the building and with my kids. I also like being able to hear about resources available that are going to help me and the kids and it is really easy to get involved in different ways.