A Bowie mother credited with helping improve communication at her daughter’s school was honored with the Maryland comptroller’s new Golden Apple award for volunteer support of education.
Cecilia Quiñonez received the inaugural Golden Apple award on Jan. 11 for her efforts at Tulip Grove Elementary School in Bowie, where she helps parents, particularly those who speak English as a second language, navigate through school forms and procedures, according to school officials. Quiñonez, who is originally from El Salvador, is bilingual in English and Spanish.
“She really made the effort to be the bridge between the school and the Latino community,” said Christine Feldmann, a spokeswoman for state Comptroller Peter Franchot.
The award, which the comptroller’s office plans to make an annual recognition, is part of a continuing effort by the comptroller to support and reach out to Maryland schools and educators, he said. Quiñonez is the first county resident to receive the award given to a nominated person or organization volunteering in support of education in each of Maryland’s counties and Baltimore City.
Award recipients, who received a plaque, were selected by a panel of employees in Franchot’s office. Quiñonez won out among a field of around 10 county nominees for her work supporting the school’s growing Spanish-speaking population.
“I take it on myself to get their home phone numbers and call and help explain homework,” said Quiñonez, co-vice president of the school’s PTA.
This school year, about 20 percent of the school’s students are Latino, about double the number from previous years due to changes in school boundaries, said Brian Baudoin, the school’s principal.
“She has really helped those parents to gain access,” he said.
Quiñonez and her husband, Marcos Quiñonez, moved to Bowie seven years ago. She has been active at the school since her eldest daughter, Dahlia, 9, began attending in 2008.
Quiñonez, who describes herself as a full-time mother, said she doesn’t track the amount of time she volunteers at the school, but estimates she usually works three to four days per week assisting teachers with anything they need.
“The one thing about Cecilia is that she is very quiet, so she would often come in, do a ton of things and not sign in,” said Stacy Kornmeyer, a substitute second-grade teacher at the school who was the parent volunteer coordinator for the school’s PTA in 2012. “Cecilia will just approach a teacher and ask if there is anything she needs.”
Government leaders, including Franchot (D), Prince George’s County Councilwoman Ingrid Turner (D-Dist. 4), Bowie Mayor G. Frederick Robinson, and Bowie City Council members Diane Polangin (Dist. 2) and Isaac Trouth (Dist. 4), attended the ceremony in the school library.
Quiñonez said she will remain active at the school for at least another few years until her youngest daughter, Karina, 7, graduates to middle school, she said.
Both girls were in attendance as their mother received the award.
“I feel excited and proud for Mom,” Dahlia said. “Maybe when I grow up, I can help the school.”