Chatting in Spanish, a group of women discuss about conflict resolution, stress, positive discipline as well as children-raising issues, giving them a sense of self-worth. Rosa Maria Sternberg is seated in the middle of the circle. She is an assistant nursing professor who has volunteered to teach a class every morning on Fridays at the Meadow Homes Elementary School.
At 59 years of age, Sternberg was an immigrant. She has a mission of improving the mental health of her co-Latina immigrants as she tries to recreate the Latino tradition during her classes, in which a village or family members get to sit down, chat, and work hand-in-hand in solving problems.
Sternberg shares her imperfect past that she, too, has family members that also struggled with mental disorder. At the age of 20, she moved to the country by herself, escaping from the 1930 Spanish Civil War.
She married in the country later on, has 3 sons, moving to a city wherein she and her husband operate preschools. She also earned her nursing degree. While in the country, she still didn’t feel a sense of belongingness, describing the phenomenon as an “identity crisis” that won’t go away.
She went back to school and earned masters and doctorate degrees, saying that these advancements would give her some sort of credibility in creating programs to improve the mental health of immigrant women. Her huge concern was prompted and inspired by the nannies of her rich preschool clients. She learned that these women were immigrants, leaving their children behind just to work in the country and provide a better life for their families.
In 2009, Sternberg expanded her research so as to study the depression levels among mid-life Latinas. From there, she got acquainted with Monument corridor organizations that help in improving the workforce services and health care of local residents.
The Monument Impact executive director, Mike Van Hofwegen said Sternberg cares about not only the entire Latino community, but more so the immigrant community. Hofwegen added that Sternberg understands the organization’s goal concerning civic engagement, economic development, and health care.
Sternberg explained that mental health services are growing public concerns, considering the cultural isolation, poverty, and other difficult issues. There are a growing number of Latino populations, but their mental health needs are ignored. Thus, such issue needs urgent action as mental illnesses could cost a nation billions in disability payments, treatment, and lost productivity.
Back in the circle, women open up and respond to issue by sharing their stories privately or in the group. They discuss about the sadness of living away from their families. Without a doubt, Sternberg relates so much to her Meadow Homes class, which is composed of women from a single parent who raises a disabled son to transnational mothers.
In spite her success in her chosen profession, Sternberg has further plans on continuing the parenting classes for free until the next school year, including working with local hospitals in expanding a certain program, and hoping to change some policies that will be geared towards benefiting people.