Sherrel Rieger Speaks About Local Involvement with Hispanics
September 30, 2009
IIn honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, a local documentary “2,000 Miles North” was shown on campus, followed by reflections from Sherrel Rieger, who has been very influential within her community.
“2,000 Miles North,” is a local documentary featuring migrant workers from Guatemala, who now live and work in our neighboring county, Tuscarawas County.
Rieger, a Dover, OH native, lived in Mexico for 11 years. When she moved back to Dover in 1988, she volunteered at the local hospital. Rieger explained that at that time, high school teachers were about the only people who could speak Spanish. Since she was fluent in Spanish, she soon became in high demand.
“My phone rang one day 20 years ago asking for my help, and it hasn’t stopped ringing since,” laughed Rieger.
Some of the services Rieger provides include trips to the doctor’s office, translating schools papers, communicating with landlords and inviting them to community events.
“Every experience I had in Mexico helps me help them,” said Rieger. “I feel like I am giving back for all the help I received while living in a different country.”
It did not take much for Rieger to build up trust with the families. A naturally friendly and inviting person, Rieger’s approach involves patience and flexibility. She began by helping her students find their way around school and then created relationships with their parents and families.
Rieger also involves her American students and retired friends in helping the migrant families. She explained that her students know where she stands and are very tender-hearted toward the migrant students. Her friends that are retired often provide transportation for the migrant families to doctor’s appointments and to the store.
During the summer, Rieger organized a swimming program on Wednesdays. Her students are each assigned a family, and they go swimming and have lunch together.
“This program is a great way for them to feel like a part of the community,” Rieger explained.
When they become part of the community, Rieger explained that it opens minds to understanding what the families go through every day. They are not here to take advantage, but are here solely for their children.
“All they care about is their kids – that’s why they’re here,” said Rieger.