Letter from the Founder
Granddaughter of Immigrants
My name is Mary Lynn Bennett, a granddaughter of Italian and Slovenian immigrants, who now dedicates herself to the education and integration of Latino immigrants into the communities in which we all live. As founder of Hispanic Outreach in Washington County and co-founder of Casa Guadalupe Education Center Inc, I am proud to offer to Latino immigrants and their families, a bilingual and bicultural education, the same key to the future that was given to me by my parents.
Education is the KEY
There was never a doubt in my parents’ minds that all of their children would go on to college. My mother was a graduate of Marinette Normal School for Teachers in the 1930’s but my dad was forced to leave school at age 12 when his immigrant father died from pneumonia. Education was a prize, a tool for financial security that my parents supported. While in college, I fell in love with languages, especially Spanish. My parents sent me to study Spanish at La Escuela Diplomatica, in at the University of Madrid, Spain. I often wonder how my parents found the funds or courage to send me to Spain, as it was unheard of at that time. But they believed in me and they believed in education. So I went to Spain and later to Mexico, to further my Spanish language skills. In May 1995, I was happy with my life. My husband, Dan and I had 3 children and I had started my own business, Bilingual Skills Services LLC. I was working as a bilingual manufacturing trainer, helping Spanish-speaking workers learn English to improve company productivity.
The Educational Beginnings - English
I was returning home one day, when I saw 2 “Nortenos,” immigrants from northern Mexico, walking on Main St. West Bend WI, I thought, “The Latino immigrants have finally arrived in West Bend. They will need to learn English.” I turned right on the corner and drove directly to St. Frances Cabrini Parish, entered the rectory and asked for a room at the parish to begin offering free English classes. English classes filled up quickly and the St. Frances Cabrini Hispanic Outreach began and then expanded into the Washington County Hispanic Outreach. In 2006, Rev. Rafael Rodriguez, associate pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Church, the Washington County Hispanic Steering Committee and I launched Casa Guadalupe Education Center, Inc. as a nonprofit.
Home to Immigrants
My life has come full circle and I am again surrounded by immigrants and children of immigrants. When I watch Jose or Rosita entering evening English class, I see my immigrant grandmother Mary as she asked me for help to write her grocery list in English. When Felix or Lupe receives a 100% on spelling or math assignments, I see Eddie or Roxalana struggling with homework at school because their parents spoke Polish and Russian in their homes and could not read English. I see my future and the future of my community.
Mary Lynn Bennett