Speaker to St. Croix parents: Love outweighs poverty in future success of your children
Published: August 27, 2013
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ST. CROIX - The bond that is shared between parents and their children will be the deciding factor of the cycle of love and life that continues for generations to come.
That was one of the many messages of life that retired Army Lt. Col. Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch has been sharing as she is traveling across the island in a whirlwind tour to share her message.
On Sunday she appeared before a sparse crowd at Educational Complex Auditorium as part of the Education Department's Back-to-School Parental Conference.
The jolly little lady, with a warm personality and bubbly spirt, got personal as soon as she hit the stage, moving from the stage to the center aisle, interacting with the audience members.
Kickbusch was candid in her speaking and told stories of her struggles and familiarity with discrimination, poverty and illiteracy that moved the audience to tears at some points. Other stories of her childhood and her life in a small town in Texas caused audience members to double over in their seats with laughter.
She moved seamlessly in her stories from Spanish to English and back, not missing a beat and captivating the audience with her strong voice, expressive hand gestures and facial expressions.
As the daughter of immigrant parents from Mexico, and one of nine children, Kickbusch said she grew up without material wealth, but she was thought that she was rich in culture, values and tradition and had been raised with strong faith in God.
"You have to have faith and accept where you come from in order for you to know where you are going," Kickbusch said.
She said her parents - though they only had a third-grade education - did their best to keep the family together and taught she and her siblings the value of education and to have pride in themselves.
Her father was a pastor, and she described him as her angel on earth, but her mother, as she explained, did not know how to tell her that she loved her.
"She had been scarred in her own life and growing up, and there are so many parents that have gone through struggles and are carrying baggage and they pass that on to their children," she said. "That has to stop. We have to show our children love and instill pride that they will carry with them."
She said children do not need gifts and toys and material things, they need to be given values, such as knowing it is important to be honest, patient and kind and trustworthy and concerned about others around them and not just about themselves and how they can benefit from a situation.
She encouraged parents to always show love to their children and to each other and to make where they live, not just a house, but a home filled with love. She said children should be the greatest asset to a community because they are the future. She said parents should be involved in every aspect of their children's lives and keep the mentality that nothing is too good or no amount of time is too much to share with them.
Kickbusch picked a girl from the audience, and Jolisa Gifft, 9, went forward. Placing a gold necklace around Jolisa's neck, Kickbusch said, "The children should be the center of our lives, Never believe things are more important than them. I am giving this to her because these are just things, they have no value more than what we have in our children."
Kickbusch was elated after a surprise visit by America Estepan, to whom Kickbusch had given a necklace to during a 2009 speaking visit.
Estepan was the valedictorian from Alfredo Andrews Elementary School that year, and on Sunday, still wearing the necklace, she reconnected with Kickbusch.
"Look how big she has gotten and beautiful," Kickbusch said. She encouraged America to honor her parents, study hard in school and "leave the boys alone, it is too early for boys, no falling in love for another 10 years."
Kickbusch and six of her siblings are veterans. She entered the U.S. Army as an officer and served for more than 20 years. During that time she broke barriers and set records in the military, where she became the highest-ranking Hispanic woman in the Combat Support Field of the U.S. Army. She was up for a promotion to a higher rank of general and turned it all down and retired from the military to honor her mother's dying wish and return to her roots and become a community leader.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.