Leza Making a Difference for Students, Families as Hispanic Coordinator

Hannah Dercks, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Not many students are aware that Notre Dame has a Hispanic Outreach Coordinator. here at NDA.  Her name is Marisa Leza, an alum of the school.

Leza is a newer member to the staff, as it is her second year working at NDA.  Her job is to reach out to the NDA Latino families, regarding mainly the Wisconsin Voucher Program, which started two years ago, but also regarding additional academic, financial, and personal issues.

Leza meets with the Latino students at least once a week.  She also organizes potlucks and retreats for the families and translates some of the documents located on the school website.

She meets with the principal, Dr. John Ravizza, and other NDA staff members bi-weekly.  These meetings are held to help bridge any gaps and better meet the needs of the students.

“More than anything, my job is to fulfill the needs of the Latino students,” Leza said.  “I see my role as a liaison, the person that all the Latino students and families can come to and seek help.”

During a regular workday, Leza enjoys spending time with the students and helping them in some way.

One of Leza’s freshman students, Denice Aispuro, said,  “Marisa is a very helpful and wonderful person.  She has helped me every day with my homework and other things.  She likes to create after-school meetings to see how well we are adjusting to school and what our troubles are.  She lets us know each other so we can be better friends.”

So what made Leza want to come back to NDA?  When she attended NDA, Lesa explained, she felt she needed more support from someone of her background.  She wanted someone to understand the issues she was facing as a Latina.

“I felt that I would be a great contribution to the NDA family in that way, by helping the Latino students have a better high school experience,” she said..  Leza also shares that she has always thought highly of NDA, and she couldn’t have thought of anywhere else she would rather be.
Leza has creatively reached out to her students.  On early dismissal days, she has organized mini-retreats and reunions.  She has also rearranged her working schedule for about a month or two in order to tutor the students that needed help.  Leza monitors the students’ grades to see if they need a tutor or not.

“I give them good advice and mentor these particular students as best as I can,” Leza says.

As expected, there are challenges Leza has encountered in her job.  She says that some of her biggest challenges have been not knowing how to take action in certain situations.  Leza also has a goal.  “I want to see all the Latino students succeed, and I want them to have a better experience than I did.”
Leza has been accepted into the Chicago School of Professional Psychology for a Masters in Counseling.  Leza has not decided if she will go or not, but she has also been considering other options.  Her departure from NDA is not a sure thing, but it is in consideration.
“She is very supportive, caring, and kind,” said Aldo Gonzalez, another one of Leza’s freshman students.

“I wish she would stay for all four of my years, but it’s not my decision whether she can stay or not,” Aispuro added.
Even though Marisa Leza is not a high profile staff member here at NDA, she is an important one.  Leza puts the needs of her students before her own by finding tutors and time to help them.  She earnestly wants to help the students have a better high school experience than she did.