Woman of Distinction: Soroptimists honor Margarita de Nev+rez for service to community
When Margarita de Nevrez moved to the United States from Durango, Mexico with her husband Manuel in 1958, she spoke very little English. She took English classes while studying at Academia Mercantil Pedro Chvez in Durango, but really only learned numbers and the Hail Mary.
“When my oldest son started school here (in Truckee), I could not talk to his teachers,” she said. “It made me uncomfortable. I could understand what they were saying, but I could not answer. I was in a system I could not understand.”
Her 8-year-old son asked her why the teachers were telling her to speak English, but not teaching her English.
But she held her ear to the language, and started taking English classes at Sierra Nevada College and the University of Nevada, Reno; and she started participating in her children’s activities. She made herself learn English.
She began volunteering in the schools, and between 1973 and 1982, she worked for the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District as a bilingual paraprofessional.
“There was so much need for translators in the schools that they hired me as a full-time aide,” she explained.
Margarita, the 2000 Soroptimist Woman of Distinction, first came to San Francisco with her husband, who was helping with Interstate 80 construction, and later moved to Yuba City before settling in Truckee in 1962. She always thought she would return to Mexico before her children started school. But that never happened -she has raised all five children in Truckee: Aldo Rene, Manuel Adrian, Armando Alonso, Beatriz and Arturo -and she’s glad.
“We had to start our own roots,” she said.
Those roots have grown to reach many, many others in Truckee over the years, especially in the Hispanic community.
When she first arrived in Truckee, there were between 15 and 20 Hispanic families here and she knew all of them well. Today, that number has grown, and she still knows many of them well.
In 1980 Margarita became a United States citizen. She was working with middle school social studies students, and knew all of the answers to United States and California history and government questions.
Between 1982 and 1987 she served as the executive director for the Bilingual Information and Referral Center, a non-profit organization led by members of the Mexican community.
“While in this job, I did translations for people in a variety of community services including doctor’s offices, the hospital, Nevada County courts, the health department, and the social services department,” she said. She also did translations for local community members at the University of California at Davis Medical Center and the Office of Social Security.
Soon, a day didn’t go by when her phone wasn’t ringing or she didn’t hear knocking on her door. If someone needed help understanding a citizenship application or understanding a note from their child’s school, everyone knew Margarita wanted to help.
Even now, though she is somewhat retired, she’ll get occasional visitors needing help.
“Sometimes someone will want me to read a letter they received,” she said.
In 1980 she started the Truckee chapter SABE (Sierra Advocates for Bilingual Education) which is associated with CABE (California Association for Bilingual Education). SABE supports bilingual education for the public regarding state and federal laws on non-English speakers.
She worked for Nevada County between 1989 and 1994, and was in charge of the Office of Administrative Services, Truckee Information Services which also served as the office of the 5th District Supervisor. She was also an assistant nutrition consultant for a program for low income pregnant women and their babies. For the Department of Social Services, she helped verify continuing eligibility of clients.
In 1990, Margarita was named by the Truckee-Donner Chamber of Commerce as the Employee of the Year.
Other accomplishments include promoting and organizing the first Latino health fair in 1990, earning scholarships from the hospital for CPR and First Aid classes for children, and serving on more than 10 boards and committees.
She currently works as a bilingual paraprofessional with kindergarten, 4th and 5th grade students for TTUSD.
“I continue to work outside of my job with the children of the bilingual community, teaching dance and Mexican Folklore,” she said.
Margarita’s commitment to her community and drive to accomplish her goals have influenced her family, which is extremely close.
All five of her children graduated from either San Diego State, Sacramento State or Sonoma State Universities. Aldo Rene received a scholarship from the Truckee Soroptimists. Armando wants to go back for his master’s degree in marketing. Beatriz is currently attending Golden Gate University for her master’s degree in marketing. Three of her sons are married and Margarita has eight grandchildren.
“I’m so proud of them,” she said of her family.
“I think just by modeling what I was doing, I was learning and I was teaching them too,” she said.
Even after going through her long list of accomplishments and service to her community, Margarita said she feels very humbled by the Soroptimist’s Woman of Distinction award.
“I don’t believe it,” she said. “There’s so many people doing so many things. I never thought I’d be elected. I was doing these things from my heart and I didn’t expect anything in return.”
“This award should be for my children and my husband,” she added. “They have been so patient. We are a very close family. If anyone has a problem, it is everyone’s problem and we do whatever we can to help each other.”
Margarita’s hobbies include reading, music and travel. This past year her children surprised her with her first trip to Europe as well as a cruise to the Bahamas.
Margarita will be honored and recognized at a Soroptimist International of Truckee-Donner reception at the Glenshire Clubhouse on Wednesday, Oct. 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. To RSVP, call Carolyn Gaston at 587-2464.
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