The gift of teaching changed her life

Posted on December 19, 2016

Ernestina “Titi” Leal has been teaching arts and crafts around our community centers for more than eight years. By her count, more than four hundred students have attended her classes.

“I feel proud when I see the work of my students. In a lot of cases the student surpasses the teacher, but I tell them not to tell anyone,” says Ernestina laughing.

Over the years, Ernestina has taught jewelry making and embroidering among other things. In the last class of the year she’s showing students how to make holiday piñatas.

Through these projects, Ernestina has built a strong bond with her students. If something is troubling them, they often ask Ernestina for advice.

“I don’t know what it is, maybe I’m a good listener, but people always approach me to talk about their concerns,” she says.

Ernestina connected with us through Ripley House where she attended activities for seniors. During this time she made little craft angels for the staff and everyone loved them.

So much so, that Gaby Conde our Assistant Director of Community Development insisted she open up a class to teach arts and crafts. Ernestina had her doubts, but Gaby kept on pushing.

“She encouraged me to start the class and I’m very thankful for that,” explains Ernestina. “I’m proud of my classes and grateful for BakerRipley. Ripley House changed my life, one hundred percent,”

Feeling like she needed to express her creativity again after years of helping to care for her grandchildren, these classes were a gift from the angels.

She never imagined how popular they would become. What started in Ripley House is now in Baker-Ripley, Leonel Castillo and Cleveland-Ripley.

Classes help students forget about their troubles

At 60, Ernestina didn’t think it was possible to find new purpose, but teaching the classes empowered her and gave her a new perspective.
The classes also gave her students purpose. For most women these classes are a place to connect and learn something new.

“It helps them relax and forget about their worries,” Ernestina explains. “That’s important, for them to be happy.”

Ernestina’s story proves age is not a barrier and it’s never too late to learn something new. That’s why she likes to tell students in Spanish: “Yo les enseño el camino y ustedes sabran las veredas que agarran.”

It loosely translates to “I’ll show you the way and you’ll know what paths to take.”

That’s the importance of our community centers. They provide our neighbors with tools and guidance for them to succeed. The ideas and the energy are all already there.
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