Asbury University Educators of the Month – Lesley Brown & Sarah Sturgeon

This dynamic duo is helping to bridge the gap between their school and its Spanish-speaking population.

It started with a book in graduate school: “Explain This to Me: Our U.S. School” by Christel Broady. First-grade teacher Sarah Sturgeon of Cane Ridge Elementary in Bourbon County read it and shared it with colleague Lesley Brown, the school’s Family Resource Coordinator. Before you can say “Hasta La Vista, Baby,” the women swung into action and they launched Café Americano. The Café’s goal is to bridge the gap between Cane Ridge and the Spanish speaking parents of its students. Hispanics make up more than six percent of Bourbon County’s population and almost 15 percent of Cane Ridge’s nearly 400 students. A Spanish major in college, Sturgeon is fluent and has been called upon countless times to translate for Hispanic parents bewildered by school routines that native-born parents take for granted. Parent concerns cover everything from how to navigate the pick-up line before and after school to attendance policies and how to write an absence note. Brown and Sturgeon — on their own time, as unpaid volunteers — launched Café Americano in August, meeting at the Paris public library. Approximately 35 parents attended the session, which was devoted to filling out school forms. Brown and Sturgeon spread word throughout the community through flyers, postings on the school district Web site and via a Facebook page they created expressly for the Café. “We were amazed by the turnout,” Sturgeon said. “We knew there was a need in the community and this proved it to us.” At a subsequent meeting, Brown and Sturgeon invited a local attorney to address legal concerns, especially in regard to immigration policies. Topics for future monthly meetings will come from the parents, Brown said. “Our plans have to be their plans,” she said, adding that they moved the meetings to Monday evenings to accommodate parental schedules. Both women are thrilled by the response and have reached out beyond their school to the entire Bourbon County community. “Seeing parents make friends and connect to their own community has been very gratifying,” Sturgeon said. Brown, who spends time with the parents’ children at meetings, enjoys the bonds she has formed with students. “I read books and have fun with the kids and that has been fantastic,” she said. “They know who I am and that has been awesome.”