Hispanic Heritage Month: SCH All Stars
My name is Juanita Elizabeth Boland. I am a true Hammond native, born and raised! I grew up in a house of all strong and powerful women. My mother, Maria Luisa and my sisters Maria, Alicia, Christina, and Maria DeJesus all have been major influences in my life! I am the baby of the family!
I am proud to say I am a product of the Hammond Public School System! I graduated from George Rogers Clark in 2007. Once a Pioneer, Always a Pioneer! This is actually where I met my husband, Adam. Yes, we are high-school sweethearts! We also have a beautiful daughter together, Luisa.
After graduating from Clark, I went on to study at Purdue University Calumet (Northwest) where I earned my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Human Development and Family Studies concentrating in human service administration in 2014.
Growing up, I always had a strong sense of community and desire to give back. In addition to my professional role, I also serve as the President of the Board of Directors for the Hammond Hispanic Community Committee, which is a local Hispanic serving nonprofit organization that provides referrals, outreach services, and scholarships to the citizens of Hammond and surrounding communities.
In my downtime, I enjoy spending time with my family, playing with my two crazy dogs, attending concerts, and traveling!
For the past 10 years, I have worked in the nonprofit sector in various capacities including client services, program development, grant management, mental health promotion, and quality assurance. I have also served as an adjunct professor of Human Services, Sociology, and Human Development courses at both Purdue University Northwest and Ivy Tech Lake County campuses.
In my current role as the Executive Director of the Hammond Education Foundation, I have the pleasure of supporting SCH students to ensure they have access to an extraordinary learning experience. We also collaborate with SCH administration to provide assistance to faculty to overcome barriers they may have while providing the quality education they know their students deserve.
I am truly honored to come full circle and to be a part of the School City of Hammond family once again!
I’m Barb Fernandez Gustin. My grandpa, Andrew Fernandez, came to the United States when he was a young boy. His family settled in Texas and later moved to Gary for work in the steel mills. In addition to working in the steel mill, he worked as a translator for the FBI and area courts. He also was a member of the International Institute and served on its Board of Directors. The International Institute is an organization that helps families who migrate to the United States. There is a scholarship at IUN in his name that is awarded annually - typically to students of Hispanic descent.
I grew up in Gary, Indiana with my Mom and Dad and my younger sister and brother. I attended Webster Elementary School, Bailly Junior High, and Lew Wallace High School. I received both my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology (Developmental) degree and Master of Arts in Communication degree from Purdue Calumet, just a few blocks from where I work now at Morton Elementary School.
I have two sons, two daughter-in-laws, two grandsons and a granddaughter. They bring so much sunshine and joy to my life! I love to read, learn new things and share what I learn. My favorite sports team is the Cubs. I’m active in my church where I’ve led groups and taught classes for both children and adults.
I have worked in the School City of Hammond for over 15 years as the Director of the School City of Hammond Head Start program. Prior to working in SCH, I worked at Purdue Calumet as the Assistant Director of the PUC Head Start Resource Center and as a Child Specialist at Southlake Center for Mental Health.
I am the Chairperson of 1st Kids, which is the organization that oversees early intervention services in north/north central Indiana. I also serve on the PNW Human Development and Family Studies Advisory Board. I have taught the Introduction to Early Childhood and Introduction to Human Development courses at PUC. Prior to working in SCH I served as a Federal Reviewer for Region V Head Start.
I have spent my career working in various roles that have always connected in some way to Head Start. The vision and purpose of Head Start captured my heart long ago and are why I do what I do everyday to help and support children, families and my staff!
Born and raised in East Chicago, IN (Harborside of East Chicago). My ancestry information tells me that my ancestors are from Tamaulipas, Mexico. My great great grandparents legally migrated to Laredo, Texas where my home away from home is, San Antonio, Texas.
I am married with a dog, Wrigley. I also have three sisters and I’m the second oldest, although raised with one of my sisters I love them all the same. I also am a mother of four children ages ranging from 30 to 18. My oldest three children graduated from George Rogers Clark and my youngest is scheduled to graduate from Morton High School.
I am a stylist by trade where I have been a barber for 20 years. Striving for financial stability, I applied to SCH originally at Clark. My SCH employment application was reviewed by Mrs. Fullilove, who was a substitute teacher when I was younger. I have now worked for SCH for 13.5 years; my first three years were at Hammond High School. Where I was the school secretary then last year, the office manager. I am now stationed at the Administration Building in the Student Services Department working with amazing people who share the need to help parents and students alike.
This district is filled with a diversity of different ethnicities and backgrounds, and it is my love for my job and love for attempting to be the best version of whom my employers would be pleased. Moreover, a person that parents would like to serve and understand their necessities.
My name is Evangelina Garcia, I go by Vangie for short. I was born on December 18th in East Chicago, IN. Both of my parents were born and raised in San Benito, Texas. I am the baby of the family, I have one older sister and no brothers. I was born and raised in Hammond, IN. I attended Columbia, Spohn, and Hammond High School. I have 3 adult children, they all attended SCH schools and all of them graduated from Gavit High School. I also have 3 grandchildren with 1 on the way. Two of them are currently SCH students.
In 2003, I obtained my Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Licence, 2004 Pharmacy Technician Licence, and in 2020 I became a Licenced Practical Nurse (LPN). I plan on applying for the Registered Nurse program in the near future.
I love spending time with my family and friends. I enjoy watching the Chicago Cubs and the Dallas Cowboys. I love the cool fall weather.
I have been employed with School City of Hammond in the Health Services department since 2003. I enjoy helping the students when they need medical attention. It makes my heart happy when I can stop their tears from falling and take their pain away. I like to participate in extracurricular activities with the students. I was a Girls on The Run Coach for several years and an Assistant Chess Coach.
I currently work as the COVID assistant, tracing the positive COVID-19 cases for the district. I am doing my best to keep all SCH students and staff safe and healthy.
My name is Melinda Hawkins and I was born on November 4th, 1984 in East Chicago, Indiana. My dad was from Russellville, Alabama and my mom was from Pearsall, Texas. They met and married in Indiana. I am the only girl of four siblings. I have two older brothers and one younger brother. I am the proud aunt to 6 nieces and nephews.
I have lived in Hammond my entire life and am currently a Hammond homeowner. I attended Eggers from Kindergarten-8th grade and I graduated from Hammond High. I attended college at Indiana State University where I majored in Elementary Education. I was a Resident Assistant, President of my sorority (Alpha Phi) and involved in a number of other student organizations. I earned my Masters Degree in School Administration and Supervision from Indiana State University as well.
Two of my favorite things to do are travel and read! I love when I get to do both at the same time! My favorite place to visit is California. I have been too many times to count!
I started my teaching career in 2008. I was a 1st grade teacher for 7 years at Thea Bowman Leadership Academy in Gary, Indiana. I then taught 3rd and 4th grade at Lincoln Elementary in Hammond. I have been the Assistant Principal at Wallace Elementary for the last 5 years.
I knew I wanted to be an educator from the time I was in 3rd grade. Mrs. Sandra Harvey was my favorite teacher and she influenced me to want to be a teacher! I am so thankful and grateful to be part of the SCH because it is where I attended. I love that I am able to give back to kids who are just like me. I love building relationships with our students and watching them become kind people!
Jerame Hicks began his higher educational career during the summer of 1995 as an Indiana University-Bloomington Groups student. While an undergraduate, Hicks was very involved with the IU community and a variety of organizations including Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity Inc., LUIU, FASE Mentoring Program, Eli Lilly Mentoring Program, and IUPHC.
He graduated with a B.A. in Criminal Justice and African American Studies. Hicks continued his education and obtained Special Education teaching licensure and a Master’s Degree in Education from Indiana University-Northwest, P-12 Administrative Licensure from Indiana Wesleyan University and is currently in the Doctor of Philosophy with a Major in Organizational Leadership program at IWU.
Jerame Hicks is the former Vice President and Secretary of the Indiana University Latino Alumni Association, current Hammond Hispanic Community Committee Member and Hammond Education Foundation Executive Board Member.
Hicks now resides with his family in Northwest Indiana and has been employed with the School City of Hammond since 2005, where he is currently the Principal at Charles N. Scott Middle School and soon to be Principal at Oliver P. Morton High School. Hicks stays involved with many SCH stakeholders and tries to give others the guidance and opportunities he has been privileged to obtain as a Servant Leader.
My name is Elizabeth Gonzalez. I was born on May 12th in East Chicago, Indiana. I am the youngest of 3 siblings. My parents, Salomon and Celia have been married for nearly 60 years and are the role models of our family. My dad is 90 years old and my mom just celebrated her 84th birthday.
I attended elementary school at Holy Trinity Catholic School and East Chicago Central High School. I attended Sawyer Business College.
I was fortunate to marry my high school sweetheart, Roberto and we’ve been blessed in our marriage for over 25 years. Together we’ve been raising our 3 sons who continue to make us very proud parents. Our two oldest, Julian and Jeremy are currently in college and our youngest, Janero is a student at Hammond Central. We reside in East Chicago.
Family is very important to me and I enjoy spending my free time with my sons and my husband. On the weekends, I enjoy spending time with my parents and my older sister, Juana.
Music is very important to me as we were raised in a musical household. I had the pleasure of hearing live music in our home, growing up. My dad practiced many times since he started his own small musical band. In his “Trio” my dad was the main singer and he played the guitar. My parents love to play and listen to music and also love to dance. I inherited this love of music and also enjoy dancing very much. I take pride in being a Hispanic woman of Mexican origin. It is important to me to help our Spanish speaking community in any way that I can.
My first job was at Security Federal Bank and held a Loan Officer position. After working at the bank for a few years I had the privilege to stay at home to care for my sons. As my boys all got older and attended school full time, I decided to rejoin the workforce.
I have worked for the School City of Hammond for 15 years. I began my career in the former Bilingual Education Program, which then became the Language Development Program (LDP). I have worked for three directors and have learned a lot from each of them.
I serve as the Administrative Assistant for LDP. It is my pleasure to work with my office colleagues as well as with the many teachers and support staff across the district.
One of my roles is to coordinate the professional development for our office. It is always nice to help our LDP teachers and staff grow in their profession.
Angelique Rodriguez-Jones grew up in Hammond and East Chicago, Indiana. She graduated high school from East Chicago Central High School, received her Bachelors in Sociology from Purdue University Calumet, MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University, and Master's in Education Administration from Indiana Wesleyan.
Angelique currently lives in Northwest Indiana with her husband and daughter.
Angelique began her career with the School City of Hammond as a CTE Business Teacher and currently serves as the Assistant Principal for Scott Middle School. She is a firm believer that representation matters. According to Rodriguez-Jones, one of the things that has shaped her the most is her Latino heritage.
"Working in a diverse environment, I feel extremely proud to be an example to our students and show them that anything and everything is possible!"
My name is Anne Jackie Ruiz and I was born and raised in East Chicago, IN. My parents are from Guanajuato, Mexico. My dad worked at Inland Steel and retired from there several years ago. My mother came to East Chicago with her family when she was 8 years old and went to school here.
Growing up, I spoke Spanish and I had to learn English so I could go to school and be successful. I had to read a lot of books and learn the pronunciation of words in English and it was difficult for me but I never gave up. I am the oldest of 5 children, I have two brothers and two sisters.
As a kid, I enjoyed riding my bike and I still like to do that today. I also enjoyed taking trips, as a family we would always go and visit my grandparents in Mexico every summer. We would pack the station wagon and drive, it took several days but I was able to stop and experience the food and fun of several states along the trip. These are some wonderful memories that I will never forget and I do that now with my two daughters and my husband.
I am the first child in my family of 5 to attend college and graduate with degrees in Education and science(Biology/Chemistry). In high school I enjoyed my science classes and I wanted to explore this field in college. I majored in the sciences, with the intent of becoming a dentist. I went to IU School of Dentistry for one year and realized that it was not my path. My husband was a science teacher and he encouraged me to join his profession. So I gave it a chance, and became a science teacher.
My teaching career started in Indianapolis, IN where I taught at several schools, both high school and middle schools. I then came back to the region in 2006 and taught biology,chemistry and AP environmental science at Lake Central High School. In 2008, I received the Bella Webb Award for environmental education. I am very passionate about protecting our planet and natural resources. I left teaching in 2015 to use my administrative license and take on a different role as teacher and leader at St. Stan’s School in East Chicago.
Currently, I am honored to be the principal at Lincoln Elementary School. I am having a wonderful career in education, and I hope to make an impact in my student’s lives; I hope that some of them may want to follow my footsteps and become teachers and/or administrators.
My name is Gregory J. Ruiz. I was born in Chicago and raised in East Chicago, Indiana. I am proud to be a third generation Mexican-American. Both my paternal and maternal grandparents immigrated from Mexico to the United States in the mid-1920s. They arrived to work in the booming steel industry in southeast Chicago and northwest Indiana. My parents both graduated from high school in 1949. My father worked for 35 years for the US Steel Company, while my mother was a secretary for several judges and worked in the law department in the City of East Chicago, until her retirement.
I attended school at Indiana Harbor Catholic and St. Lawrence Seminary in Mount Calvary, Wisconsin, graduating in 1987. After high school, I attended Indiana University-Bloomington. Having the opportunity to attend high school and college away from my home gave me the wonderful opportunity to learn and understand more about others and about myself. However, I really missed my mom’s amazing Mexican food, which eventually brought me back to East Chicago.
Although we primarily communicated in English in my home while growing up, my grandmother lived across the street and she only communicated in Spanish. I credit my grandmother for encouraging my siblings and me to learn Spanish, not only to speak, but also to read and write.
I have two daughters, Sofia and Olivia who are both sophomores in college and high school respectively. They continue to make me a proud father as they grow and continue their studies. I am the middle child of four who all live in different areas of the United States.
Little known facts about Greg:
- I was an extra on Chicago Story, an NBC television series that aired for one season in 1982.
- I have always struggled with being red/green colorblind.
- I am one of four founders of Sigma Lambda Beta Fraternity at Indiana University-Bloomington (Sigma Lambda Beta is the largest Latino oriented fraternity, recognized internationally).
- I am a self-proclaimed cornhole champion!
I have worked in School City of Hammond for 29 years. My entire professional career has been dedicated to supporting English Learners (ELs) in the Bilingual Education and Language Development Programs. When I began my career my intentions were to work In SCH for a short time and then transition to working for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. However, I quickly fell in love with my profession and serving our EL students and their families.
I returned to school in 2002 and earned my teaching license in Elementary Education at Calumet College of St. Joseph. I then continued teaching ELs at the middle and high school levels at the Area Career Center. In 2013, I became the Assessment Supervisor of ELs in the Language Development Program. Working with our students, parents, teachers and administrators on understanding students’ linguistic growth in English proficiency is my passion.
In 2017, I returned to school at Purdue University-West Lafayette with several other colleagues to earn my license in Teaching English Learners. Although it was a challenging year-long program, I had the opportunity to work through it with some amazing teachers and administrators in our district. I am currently enrolled at Purdue University-West Lafayette working on earning my certificate in Dual Language Bilingual Education (DLBE).
My name is Anthony Orlando Salinas. I was born on November 10th in East Chicago, Indiana. My parents, Oscar and Clara Salinas were both born in Laredo, Texas. I have one older brother and a younger sister. I am the middle sibling! I attended Harrison and McKinley Elementary Schools in East Chicago. I also attended West Side Junior High School and graduated from Central High School in East Chicago in 1994.
In the summer of 1994 I was part of the Groups Program at Indiana University Bloomington. I attended IU from 1994 to 1999. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Spanish Education and earned an ESL/Bilingual Certification.
I did my student teaching in Edinburg, Texas for 12 weeks. This was a very exciting and unique experience due to it being a border town. I earned my Master of Science Degree from Purdue Calumet (Northwest) in Educational Administration in 2006. In 2018, I earned my certification in English as a New Language.
In my free time I love to go to the gym to workout and run on the treadmill. I enjoy bike riding on the many bike paths in Lake County. I ENJOY naps and have been taking naps ever since I was in high school. The Chicago Cubs are my favorite team! I also like live music and dancing with my family and friends. I have a love for cars and enjoy seeing the evolution of old and new vehicles from the same make and model. I prefer Coke over Pepsi and love pepperoni pizza. I have a soft spot for double stuffed Oreos.
I have worked for the School City of Hammond for over 20 years. In that time I have been a teacher, assistant principal, principal, LDP director and executive director of elementary.
I have enjoyed working with the students, teachers and parents over the years. It has been a privilege to support families in several capacities. Currently, I have the honor of working with and supporting our elementary principals. They are such an amazing and dedicated group of professionals!!
I have served on the Board of Directors for the Hammond Education Foundation and also on the Board of Directors for the Hammond Hispanic Community Committee.
The School City of Hammond is a wonderfully supportive and collaborative place to work. I absolutely love my job and the people with whom I work to support our community.
¡Hola! My name is Ana Maria Verduzco Zamora and I was born in Ario de Rayón, Michoacán México. I am the third of seven children. My parents Ana Maria Zamora Bañales and Ramón Verduzco Gómez were also born in Ario de Rayón. My mother was a homemaker and my father worked at Inland Steel until he retired in 2004. By trade my mother was an expert seamstress, who did not use patterns and my father was a well-known butcher. We also worked in the fields until I was 14 years-old. My parents sacrificed so much to come to the US and make a life here and I can honestly say we had the best childhood ever enjoying both worlds -- Mexico and the U.S.! I have lived in several cities in the Region. I grew up in Gary, then moved to Merrillville after marriage, later Portage and now Hobart!
Growing up, I have to admit that I wasn’t crazy about school and for that reason, I didn’t think that I would like going to college. As I reflect today, I see myself as the typical English learner who was still in the process of acquisitioning and trying to make meaning of the world around me.
In 1991, one of my best friends and her family convinced me to run for the Mexican Pageant in East Chicago, Indiana called La Unión Benéfica Méxicana. Well to my surprise, I was selected and it was a wonderful experience. I received many rewards, but the reward that was life changing for me was a $1,000 scholarship towards college, which to most would not seem to be a big deal. I didn’t want to lose the money, so I decided to go to Ivy Tech in Gary and there is where I realized that I loved it! If it had not been for the scholarship, I can honestly say that I would not have gone to college. The reason I tell this story is to encourage our students to apply for scholarships-a little money and an opportunity can go a long way.
After attending Ivy Tech, I attended Indiana University Northwest (IUN), then switched to Calumet College of Saint Joseph where I earned my Bachelor’s in Elementary Education.Several years later in 2010, I earned my Master’s in Educational Administration at IUN.
Today, I am a proud mother of two children. My son Valentin is 28 and my daughter Ivana is 26. They each have recently made me a grandmother of two precious babies--Valentina and Santino!
My career in SCH began in 1998. Over the years, I have held many positions beginning with instructional paraprofessional, teacher, coach and coordinator in the Bilingual Department, today known as the Language Development Department (LDP). In 2014, I served as assistant to the principal at Irving then Edison and in 2017 I was named principal at Irving Elementary. I have taught at various schools such as: Edison, Kenwood, Lafayette, Columbia, Lincoln, ACC and Irving. In 2020, I returned to the LDP department where I started my career in 1998!
Working for the SCH community and English learners is truly my vocation and I absolutely love the community I serve. Below are some interesting facts about me:
- I took woodshop class in high school for four years and I was always my dad’s helper when he needed help working on the house, cars, or other odd jobs;
- Sketching and oil painting is a hobby I want to make more time for; and
- I love cooking Mexican food for family gatherings while listening to my favorite Mariachi music ♪♫