Donation to Harmon High School will fund family resource room



“This is the fulfillment of my wife’s decade-long dream”





Michael Dean (right) hasn’t walked the halls of JC Harmon High School since graduating in 1986. He came back to his high school last week to help fund a family resource center on the school’s campus through his Dean-Lozoya Family Foundation.



BY JOE ARCE AND COREY CRABLE


One generous donation from an alumnus of J.C. Harmon High School in Kansas City, Kan., will bridge the gap between the parents of students and the administrators who serve them.

Michael and Guadalupe Dean of the Dean-Lozoya Family Foundation presented school officials with a $10,000 check on Oct. 12, with the funds to go toward the construction of a family resource center on the school’s campus. The center would engage parents and guardians of Harmon students with teachers, counselors and administrators who would provide them assistance with accessing other school resources, including translation for non-native speakers, information about area colleges, scholarship applications, and help with admissions letters. The entire goal of the center is to make the parents feel more connected with their child’s school and the people who work to educate them every day.

“This (donation) will set up an ESL program and a resource center for parents so they can feel comfortable talking to teachers and admins and counselors,” Michael said. “This will be a community hub where the parents can connect with the educators themselves.”

The Deans said they decided to give back to their community on the heels of their successful tequila business. Michael, a 1986 graduate of Harmon, said his wife in particular has wanted to see such a resource available for years.

This is the fulfillment of a decade-long of my wife’s decade-long dream,” he explained. “She came to me in 2010 when the tequila was being worked on. She said, ‘If one day you can do this, it’s what I need for you to do for the people of Mexico here in Kansas City.’ These parents need to be taught how to be parents of students so these students will be decision-makers in the future.”

In attendance at the check presentation were a variety of Harmon school administrators and Board of Education officials past and present teachers and counselors officials with the Chamber of Commerce and even the Consulate General of Mexico, Alfonso Navarro Bernachi.

“This is a great way to close Hispanic Heritage Month, when we recognize the daily contributions of Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and people of Hispanic descent,” Bernachi said to the crowd. “(The Deans) have created good things for their community here in Kansas, for this school and its students.”

As an alumnus of Harmon, Dean said he was happy to give back to the community that supported him throughout his formative years.

“I’m proud to have graduated (from this school). That’s the truth of things,” Michael said. “We’ve been lucky – we’ve struggled a lot, we’ve had to sacrifice a lot. We’re still in the process of making money and taking care of the family (with their Mi Rancho tequila business). … But this gives us an opportunity to fix problems we saw growing up or that we’ve confronted throughout our lives.”

Though he said he knows the school’s faculty and staff appreciate the donation, perhaps no one outside of the school is more excited about it than his wife, Guadalupe.

“For me, (Harmon) was the premier high school in the district. I took advantage of things there just like anybody, but I never had parents who interacted with (school admins),” he said. “And my wife has put her entire adult life aside for her children. They’ve always come first for her.”

That love of her children and desire to help the children of others has always come naturally to her, Guadalupe says.

“I’ve had this idea of wanting to helping parents and students since 2010,” said Guadalupe Dean. She knows it can be difficult for the parents when they only speak Spanish. Her first language is Spanish as well. “I wouldn’t know how to guide my children to finish their high school, so I step on the shoes of people, I believe it is very important to know where we can get help, to know how to guide our children so they can have a technical or professional career. Thanks to my husband Michael, who was born in the United States and grew up in Kansas City, Kansas and who knew all the rules and how education works and she points out others may not know how to maneuver themselves through the school system to help students become successful,” said Guadalupe Dean.

“Language is tremendously important, to be able to communicate exactly what we want to ask or where we want to go when we communicate even if we don’t know how to speak we can still communicate with some broken English. A lot of people have the ability to learn languages and others don’t. We as parents want to communicate to better help our children. Sometimes even our children don’t know how to translate exactly what we want to ask as teachers and that is also a problem for educators. So in the translation there could be a small gap, might be a misunderstanding and it can be something that can effect the student. So language is super important,” said Guadalupe.

She adds, “When an immigrant comes to the US, we are completely in the dark. For example, in my case coming from Mexico, where I am from we don’t have tornados, we are completely in the dark about the country when we arrived. That is the reason why it’s so important to communicate better, to know where we are, to know the context where we are moving, to know the language, language opens up so many doors. To be able to study, to have a job, to guide or children, because they don’t know the countries we came from. Now our children are Americans, with Mexican or Hispanic heritage, but they need their parents to encourage and guide them with knowledge. For our family it is a pleasure to help, we see it as a responsibility, we do it for our community. We are happy about what we are trying to do we are trying to offer resources, but we are going to see the final results with the involvement of parents.”

Michael says he hopes his family’s donation will have a positive ripple effect throughout the community.

“Hopefully, us stepping up to the plate will bring other people in to donate or give of their time,” he said. “Maybe things can happen. This needs community participation. It’s easy to complain, but it’s hard to do something.” The resource center, Michael said, will be a place where collaboration and teamwork come first.

“We want to create a hub for parents and administrators with the same goal: to get the student into college, and let them excel where we know they can excel,” he said.

Dignitaries in attendance praised the Dean family for their contribution and what it will mean to the students and the community at large.

“Our thanks to Mr. Dean – he’s an angel to the Harmon family,” said Claudio Flores, Harmon head principal. “It means a lot to the community of Harmon High School.”

KCKPS Interim Superintendent Dr. Alicia Miguel echoed that sentiment, adding that though the money itself is appreciated, its intended use means even more to the families it will benefit.

“It is so moving to see a former student of Harmon come back and donate money,” Miguel said to Michael. “But it’s not about the money, it’s about the gesture. That means Harmon did something right. Whatever they were doing, we need to keep doing. That means we touched your heart.”

The donation, Michael said, is only the first in many steps to create a link between the community’s access to the school and its educational resources.

“It is important that our families engage in the educational process of their children,” he said in a press release issued by KCKPS. “It is also our responsibility to assist parents with opportunities to improve their command of the English language. This assists society in seeing the impact of their efforts and hard work during their lifetime as improves society on the whole.”