Located in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region, Geneva, N.Y. has been host to the Colleges for nearly two centuries— a city that has welcomed our students, supported our efforts and advanced our mission. But for many Hobart and William Smith Colleges alumni and alumnae, the region is simply home.
Silmarie Reyes Ortiz '05,
an ESL teaching assistant
at the Geneva Middle
tutors a student whose first language is not English.
by John Martin
Silmarie Reyes Ortiz '05 knows how much it means, as a child coming from a different culture, to get a helping hand in Geneva. Now she's made it her life's work. As an ESL teaching assistant in the Geneva Central School District for the past nine years, Ortiz helps middle school students whose first language is not English with their subjects and homework.
She was that Geneva Middle School student once. Originally from Ponce, on the south-central coast of Puerto Rico, her family came to Geneva when she was seven years old. She didn't speak English. A former Geneva Middle School ESL teacher that she considers her mentor, Rebecca Reyes, was one of many who always gave her words of encouragement.
"Geneva has taught me to help others," she says. "I have been helped as a student and member of the community, and it taught me to do the same for others. I am thankful for those who believed in me." Ortiz stayed in Geneva after high school to be close to her mother who had fallen ill. She says her HWS adviser, Director of Intercultural Affairs Alejandra Molina, helped manage the transition. A Spanish and Hispanic Studies major at HWS, she was a member of the Latin American Organization, which brought middle school students to campus for a day to sample university life.
After graduation, she made the city her home. "I stayed after college because I was already a mom, and I knew that Geneva was a great community to raise children. I felt that my children and I could progress here. There are many events where you see people come together for good causes, to help one another out. People in Geneva have a great sense of community."
Ortiz keeps up that service tradition. She is the children's director at Geneva Hispanic Church of God, helps coach the modified girls' basketball team, and coaches t-ball for the YMCA. She was the keynote speaker at the Martin Luther King Jr. scholarship dinner this May—the same scholarship she received when she was a senior at Geneva High School.
"Geneva is part of a wonderful region that is getting national attention for its attractions and beauty," she says. "I believe that, as it becomes more diverse, there should be more events, like our Festival of Nations, a multi-cultural celebration for all residents of Geneva, to engage and recognize these groups, and make them feel like a part of their new community. I'm also hoping that, as a result of development, there will be new work opportunities. I would love to see this happen."
Tracking The Renaissance