The Value of Volunteers
Volunteerism Keeps Rosemary Batista Giving Back, Even With No Direct Connections
“Everybody wants to be like Rosemary.”
So says Audrey Guentert, president of the Alta Loma Council PTA, which represents the Alta Loma School District where Rosemary Batista once worked and continues to be an involved and influential volunteer, despite having no other connections to the School District.
Batista works in the health office at Valle Vista Elementary School in the Central School District in Rancho Cucamonga as the assistant to the District Nurse.
“I wish we could clone Rosemary,” says Guentert, although it seems Batista is doing a pretty good job of doing that herself.
Along with her job at Valle Vista Elementary, Batista serves on the Valle Vista PTA and Alta Loma High School PTSA, and she is Secretary of the Alta Loma Council PTA, President of the Rancho Cucamonga Council and Parliamentarian of the Fifth District PTA, which covers all of San Bernardino County.
While it’s been years since she worked part-time at Alta Loma Elementary School in the Alta Loma School District and since her children attended schools in the Central School District, Batista has been an essential part of the Alta Loma School District.
“She is amazing,” says James Moore, Superintendent of the Alta Loma School District. “She doesn’t have kids in our District, and she doesn’t even live in our District, yet she gives so much of her time to support the kids and parents here. She’s remarkable.”
Batista played a critical role in the Measure H Bond measure gaining voter approval in fall 2016. On her own time, she oversaw the team that met weekly to call residents to encourage their support of the initiative, and was frequently making campaign calls herself. Measure H passed by a margin of just seven votes in one of the closest elections ever in San Bernardino County.
“She was very instrumental in the success of the bond measure and spent countless hours helping to organize the PTAs from all of our school sites,” says Moore.
Moore says that over the course of weekly calling meetings over nearly four months, Rosemary and her husband Frank would meticulously go through the call lists, scan and record the responses and then update new call lists for the next week.
“She was there calling every night,” adds Daina Shaffer, Moore’s Administrative Assistant. “She’s incredibly passionate.”
Passion is the word that seems to come up frequently when people talk about Batista. Measure H was her third successful bond measure campaign – the other two were in the Central School District. While those behind the scene credit her for the 2016 initiative’s eventual passage, she downplays her role.
“I was just overseeing what they needed to do,” says Batista. “It was so important to benefit the kids in this School District. I was so excited with the outcome.”
“There are 6,000 kids currently in the Alta Loma School District who are benefitting from Rosemary’s work, and there will be generations of kids to come who will also benefit from what she has done and continues to do,” says Moore.
Batista has made a career of doing things to benefit children. Now in her 24th year working in the Central School District, she worked part-time at Valle Vista and part-time over eight years in Child Care at both Alta Loma Junior High School and Alta Loma Elementary in the Alta Loma School District.
“When health clerks were given full-time positions, I had to leave one because I couldn’t work two full-time jobs, so I left Alta Loma, which was very hard to do, because I loved working for both School Districts,” she said.
Both Batista’s daughter, Ashley Bock, and son, Brent, went to Valle Vista Elementary School and Cucamonga Middle School and graduated from Alta Loma High School. Both continue to live locally, and Brent is following some of his mom’s footsteps. Already with his bachelor’s degree from Cal State San Bernardino in hand, he is currently working part-time at both Bear Gulch Elementary School in the Central School District and in Child Care at Alta Loma Elementary as he studies for his teaching credential.
Rosemary first volunteered on the PTA Board at Valle Vista when her daughter was in kindergarten. By the time Ashley was in second grade, her mom was the school’s PTA President. That was nearly 25 years ago.
“I was just fascinated with all that PTA stands for—working with the children and just being a part of what I could do to change the life of a child,” she says. “For me it was always seeing the joy of the students being able to go on a field trip and wearing a spirit shirt and those kinds of things, whether I was with PTA or school site council or whatever it was.”
Batista continued to get involved as her children moved to junior high and high school. She eventually became President of the Alta Loma High PTSA Board. That automatically placed her on the Alta Loma Council PTA, of which she has served in almost every role, including President.
“I still like doing whatever I can do to benefit children, no matter what school district or what area they live in,” Batista says.
Guentert says that as Batista’s children eventually progressed through school and graduated from high school, the regional PTA Council level was Batista’s next logical step.
“The thing about Rosemary is that she never says no,” says Guentert.
Look at the board listing for the Fifth District PTA and you’ll see Batista’s name next to five different positions. Besides parliamentarian, she is chair of the Superintendent’s Roundtable, Honorary Service Awards and District Workshop, She’s also Rancho Cucamonga Council President and has previously headed the county-wide Reflections art program.
“She volunteers for everything,” says Guentert. “She’s probably away from home several times a week because of meetings, but she has a husband who is tremendously supportive of her passion to volunteer.”
The California State PTA convention will be held April 27-29 in Ontario, and Guentert says Batista hopes to volunteer and help welcome PTA members from around the state to the Inland Empire.
Moore, Shaffer and Guentert all said separately that Batista is actually shy and prefers to stay out of the spotlight, but that she never hesitates to step up when needed.
“She’s grateful for the work the schools are doing on behalf of kids, but she doesn’t want to be singled out for that,” Moore says.
Batista’s humble nature led to a somewhat embarrassing moment several years ago when she attended a PTA honorary service awards dinner, but was unaware she was an award recipient.
“It was a surprise and she didn’t know she was winning an award,” Guentert says. “She didn’t know her husband was coming, but he showed up and sat down next to her. She looked at him and said, ‘What are you doing here?’ He said he heard there was a free meal. She said, ‘You can’t stay for a free meal.’ Of course, he was invited because she was winning later that night, but she didn’t know and she was convinced that he needed to leave. It was hysterical. Finally we said, Frank, you can stay and then I think she figured it out.”
Rosemary and Frank Batista will be grandparents for the first time this summer, when Ashley is expecting her first child.
“Then I think we can keep her in PTA forever, because she will have another little one in the School District,” says Guentert.”
Luis Castro - Community Volunteer Against All Odds
Much as was typical of the work he once did as a roofing contractor in Bakersfield, Luis Castro would scale great heights to get his job done right. For someone of his experience of more than ten years climbing tall buildings, balancing heavy materials, tip-toeing between support beams and working in somewhat treacherous conditions, the job became second nature.
Then one July day in 2011 while he was repairing a roof atop a three-story home in Bakersfield, Castro took a step back on his normally secure scaffolding. By the time he realized the scaffolding board was split, there was no time to react, sending him tumbling head-first to the concrete sidewalk below and into a two-month-long coma.
Nearly seven years later, Castro continues on the mend from severe brain injuries and a fractured spinal cord. He no longer climbs on roofs and is unable to drive or return to a physically demanding job. Instead, he has found a new direction as a parent volunteer at Victoria Groves Elementary School in the Alta Loma School District.
Castro volunteers every morning in Jennifer Lancaster’s kindergarten class, where his 6-year-old grandson, Adan Mesa, and 5-year-old daughter, Daniella Castro, are both students in the same classroom. Often mistaken as brother and sister, Daniella is actually Adan’s aunt.
“I volunteer to help because I want to help my kids to progress and have the best,” Castro says. “I feel good coming every morning to help out. The most important part of my life is coming here with the kids. Victoria Groves gave me the opportunity to prepare my kids the best I can.”
His involvement has helped him understand class assignments and assist his daughter and grandson with their homework. Likewise, his classroom assistance has been a blessing to Lancaster.
“We couldn’t do it without Mr. Luis,” she says. “He comes every day and gives 100 percent of his heart and is so happy. He has expressed to me so many times that we’ve given him a purpose in life every day to get up and serve the students. It’s just made him want to do more for the kids and help provide an environment where they can learn and enjoy school each day. We couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”
Castro’s wife, Margarita Billa, is his driver and primary caretaker, along with daughter Isabelle Contreras Mesa, carting him around town to Victoria Groves and to volunteering duties at the City of Rancho Cucamonga, Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department and the City Library. In addition, he’s taking classes at Chaffey College.
“God gave me the opportunity to add to my family,” says Castro. “I get a lot of satisfaction working at the school, and the kids like having me there.”
His path to Rancho Cucamonga began on that fateful day in Bakersfield when he crashed to the sidewalk. Completely unconscious when his work crew could get to him, he was rushed to a local hospital for treatment, but after suffering severe brain injuries and fractures to his spinal cord, he fell into a coma and was airlifted to UCLA Medical Center. He remained in a coma for the next two months.
“When I woke up I thought I had only been asleep for one day,” says Castro, who was born in Mexico and has since gained U.S. citizenship and lives in Rancho Cucamonga. “I could see very clearly two people, and one was my wife and the other was a nurse. I tried to talk but I had tubes in my mouth and in my arms. My wife tried to explain what was happening, but I didn’t understand.”
Castro was transferred to Casa Colina Hospital in Pomona, where he lived for four years while undergoing intense rehabilitation to regain basic motor skills like walking and talking. That progress brought him home again, where he continues to rehab on his own with help from his wife, Margarita Billa, and daughter, Isabelle Contreras Mesa, who is Adan’s mother. His oldest daughter, Carla Castro, lives in Bakersfield.