New American Middletown teacher shows local Latino students the way

Colombia native Henry Folgoso is one of the main motors making Middletown Schools’ expanding English instruction program run.

Besides a passionate energy for helping the Hispanic community in Middletown, Folgoso is a walking poster of new American pride for the young, foreign-born students to learn of the importance of citizenship.

He and his wife Dani Ortegal – who also teaches in the city schools – recently became American citizens after going through the required naturalization process.

Last month the two were sworn in during a citizenship ceremony.

Days after the ceremony, Folgoso, 45, learned his work teaching Hispanic children English had garnered him this year’s Mary Maurer Volunteer of the Year, presented by the Middletown Community Foundation. The award goes to a Middletown resident between the ages of 30 and 50 who shows exemplary service in the community.

“I’m an immigrant myself so that is what motivates me to do what I do but I go beyond my role as school district employee,” he said referring to his efforts helping local Latinos with residency and citizenship, volunteering as a translator for the schools, hospital and police department.

Folgoso, associate pastor for Middletown’s First United Methodist Church, is in his third year working in the English Learners (EL) program in the schools. He said his newly earned status as an American lends to his credibility when dealing with EL students.

“I tell them they can get there and achieve this,” he said.

Increasingly, there are more EL students from Latin America and elsewhere in the world to receive that message in Middletown Schools.

In 2009 there were 187 EL students in the district but this year there are 403 foreign-born students learning English, an increase of 115 percent. Folgoso works in the district’s 10 schools, which enroll 6,300 students.

Folgoso is as “an example of ‘Middie Pride,’” said Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. “He is a blessing in disguise. “When you talk about what students need to be successful – it doesn’t matter what their demographic background – Henry is able to motivate kids and inspire them to believe in their dreams.

“He is a positive role model for the students and they look up to him. They see that he has made and so they believe they can make it.”

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