You may have seen Mr. de la Mar chasing down students in the building, or you might have heard a message from the intercom calling for a student to go down to his office. People know him as the Hispanic Achievement Liaison, but what you probably don’t know is that he loves theater. On Wednesdays, he teaches a theater class for children, and before the pandemic, he would act in audience-interactive performances. When he’s not in school or doing theater, he likes to hang out and play Minecraft with his children.
Mr. de la Mar’s family is originally from Cuba, but he grew up in New Jersey. He said, “My life growing up consisted of living in two worlds: the Spanish-speaking Cuban world at home and the English-speaking American world at school. (Just like most of the students that I work with here at OMHS).” When he was younger, he would often translate for his mother, which started his passion for helping people communicate with each other. He expressed that helping families today is like when he used to help his mother, so the job is very “close to home.” He enjoys being helpful and appreciates the gratefulness that the OM families show. Mr. de la Mar started off as an interpreter for the county. He interpreted at events such as parent-teacher conferences.
Six years ago, he began as the Hispanic Achievement Liaison at Thomas Viaduct Middle School, a position that he learned about from a person that he knew when he was an interpreter. Last year, he joined the OMHS community and has been working hard to help Latinx students succeed. He expressed his fondness for OM saying, “My favorite thing about OMHS is the people, both students and staff. I actually do feel like I am being welcomed hOMe. The people I work with and the students that I get to help, all genuinely seem to care about my wellbeing… there is a real sense of unity in this school.” When Mr. de la Mar expressed the difference between working at a middle school compared to working at a high school, he explained that in middle school, they are preparing the students for high school, but in high school, they are preparing them for real life.
Mr. de la Mar’s main role as a Hispanic Achievement Liaison is to interpret. He makes sure that families understand the information that is being put out by the school and the county. He also connects Latinx students to programs and scholarships that benefit them. Mr. de la Mar explained that many of the issues that Latinx students talk to him about are everyday things. They ask for help getting the right papers signed for things like the driver’s and worker’s permit. Students also go to him for help navigating websites such as Naviance and Common App. He expressed that things aren’t easily accessible for not just the students that don’t speak English well, but also for Latinx students in general. Mr. de la Mar stated that the most difficult part of his job is the “quantity.” He explained that keeping up with 280 students takes a lot of work, but although it is difficult for him to keep up with everyone, he tries his best to make sure that he helps anyone who needs it.
The pandemic has had a significant impact on how Mr. de la Mar works. He explained that it has made things much more difficult. He expressed that it was hard to do work at home because he doesn’t have easy access to the people and files that he needs. In school, it was easy for him to track down students in their classes, but now, he has found himself setting up Google Meets and calling home to get a hold of students. He explained that the pandemic has definitely added more layers to achieving his job. Once the pandemic is over, Mr. de la Mar is looking forward to seeing students at OMHS. Because he doesn’t teach a class, he doesn’t interact with students very often, so he hopes to see more of them at school when things get better.
Mr. de la Mar is a significant part of the OMHS community. He provides many resources for Latinx students who need them and enjoys being helpful to families. We should all recognize Mr. de la Mar’s important work in helping students thrive at OMHS.