After years of watching her father, an immigrant from Mexico, struggle to overcome a language barrier on the way to getting a high school diploma and college degree, Berry College senior Dakotah Cubillo started the nonprofit Learning Seeds to help local kids overcome the obstacle of learning English as a second language so they can pursue their dreams, she said.
“I never want to see someone struggle and not have their dreams just because of a language barrier and that is the main reason Learning Seeds was created,” she wrote. “These children are our next doctors, lawyers, engineers, and maybe the future President of the United States, but in order for them to succeed they need someone there helping them and guiding them through to break a language barrier that have held so many down from reaching their dreams.”
The 2014 graduate of Cedartown High started Learning Seeds as a sophomore at Berry, balancing course work and student teaching while working one-on-one with children to develop their skills in reading and writing. When she began teaching her first student, a first-grader at the time, Cubillo said he only knew basic English, limited to greetings and expressions such as “thank you” and “please.”
At first, the boy hated to read, Cubillo said, but as he continued working with her that changed. He started bringing her books and telling her what he had read, challenging himself to read more and more, eventually being able to read chapter books in first grade. Six months later, he was reading two grade levels ahead, and he is now a third-grader in the gifted program at his school.
Cubillo stresses the importance of incorporating a student’s culture into their education, helping to build a personal relationship between student and teacher.
The program — which her mother, an accountant, helps in handling the business side and her brother aids with tutoring — has grown to currently serve 12 kids, and Cubillo plans to continue the program even as she starts her teaching career at Anna K. Davie Elementary this summer. She became attached to the school during her time at the South Rome Early Learning Center, a program for 3-year-olds. She will be teaching third grade science and social studies.
When Cubillo first came to Berry, a teaching pathway was nowhere on her radar, originally pursuing a pre-med track. However, she reached a point where she knew this path was not for her and she wanted to try something else. She recalled being told she would be a good teacher, and after enjoying her first education class she thought, “Maybe they were right.”
Cubillo, who is going to pursue her master’s degree through Walden University, will graduate from Berry on Saturday morning. In the run-up to graduation, her father — who now works building bridges — has excitedly reminded her just how many days she has left. And her father’s inspiration, leading by example for his children by graduating college, continues to be a driving influence for Cubillo.
The Rome News-Tribune is highlighting outstanding graduates from area schools over the next few weeks in a series of profiles.