Clocking in close to 60 hours a week, Juan Carlos Sanchez, a merchandiser for Budweiser, juggles his demanding job and being involved in the education of his 5-year-old twin daughters, Dagnay and Danay.
Sanchez, who came to South Florida from Cuba seven years ago, says he inherited the dedication he has toward his daughter’s education from his father.
“My dad was always very concerned about my school work, and even as I got older he was always there in all of my school meetings,” Sanchez said in Spanish at his Homestead home.
Always looking for ways to feed his daughter’s hunger for knowledge, Sanchez volunteered to read at Bel-Aire Elementary School in Cutler Bay through a program called Fatherhood Task Force of South Florida.
Their program aims to get fathers like Sanchez involved in the lives of their children through reading and storytelling.
Holly Zwerling, the founder and president of the task force, asked him to participate in the event. Only knowing fragmented English, Sanchez teamed up with his wife, Lisbet Barbosa, stepmother of his children.
“They have a unique co-partnership,” Zwerling said. “Lis has a better knowledge of English. They chose a book, and he interpreted it in Spanish.”
This exposed the pre-K students to a distinctive bilingual storytelling experience.
“It was so much fun for the children because they liked to learn new words,” Zwerling said. “Juan was a unique person in the classroom, which the kids had not seen before.”
When Sanchez began reading, his face lit up, she said.
“He values his Hispanic culture, and he wants to share the language with the children,” she said. “The kids were repeating the words after him, and his smile was bigger than ever.”
Proud that his daughters recently passed Pre-K, Sanchez makes an effort to stay involved not only during school but after school as well.
“I want my daughters to know that I am always there for them whenever they need me,” he said. “I am very persistent and not like other fathers who are less involved.”
His daughters’ education didn’t stop when the school year did because Sanchez continued communication with their teachers to get advice for kindergarten and summer learning.
“I like to know what they are doing in school so that I can help them,” said Sanchez, who made copies of their homework during the school year as a way to keep records and use them as lesson plans during the summer.
While working a full-time job isn’t always easy, Sanchez makes it a priority to continue supporting his daughters wherever he can. During the summer, he carves out study and reading time with his girls.
“Being there is very hard in this country because you are always working,” Sanchez said. “But when I have free time, I like to take them out to the park to play.”
Knowing that his kids are only young once, Sanchez is constantly sharing every moment he can with them.
“There isn’t a book that teaches you how to be a good father,” Sanchez said. “I try to be as present in the life of my kids as possible because this moment is so special, and I try to enjoy it to the maximum.”