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USF student hosts weekly radio program during coronavirus pandemic

By Rich Shopes

Thursday, June 11, 2020


A University of South Florida student is partnering with several local radio stations to host a program to help Spanish-speaking parents during the coronavirus pandemic.

Geri Chaffee, a student in the Master of Educational Leadership program at the Sarasota-Manatee campus, recently teamed up with Sarasota-based Solmart Media to produce a weekly Spanish radio show called Por Nuestros Niños (For Our Children).

The show is broadcast Mondays at 11:30 a.m. on WZSP (105.3-FM) and WTMY (99.1-FM) and (1280-AM), or online at www.lazeta.fm and Univisión's Uforia streaming platform La Numero Uno, 99.1-FM, Sarasota. A repeat broadcast is aired Sundays at 10:30 a.m.

As the pandemic forces schools to engage in distance learning, parents are playing a greater role helping their children to adjust to the technology and new learning methods. 

But for many, this is prompting questions and leading to an array of topics for Chaffee to tackle. What started as a mission to help parents navigate the pandemic has now become a weekly educationally themed radio program with guest spots and detailed advice. 

All of this comes as Chafee, who is set to graduate in August, tries to open a bilingual public charter school in summer 2021 called the Dreamers Academy. She said she never expected the radio show to take off the way it has. She doesn’t receive any compensation for it and said she’s only too happy to help. 

Gabo, Geri and Thomas Chaffee

Geri Chaffee with her sons, Gabo and Thomas

“It started when I was asked to be a guest on a radio program, but then it got a really good response and everything just took off from there,” said Chaffee, who lives in Sarasota but grew up in Puerto Rico to Spanish-speaking parents. “After that, we talked about doing a regular program.” 

Por Nuestros Niños launched May 11, reaching 10 counties. The 30-minute programs are taped in advance and include interviews with educators and recommendations for parents to help their children succeed. 

She says that even parents long involved with their children’s education find the pandemic is raising new questions about technology and available learning resources. Others worry that their children will fall behind because they lack in-person interaction with their teachers. 

“This has been very stressful for parents,” Chaffee said. “A lot of schools don’t have Spanish-speaking support systems, and many parents are struggling to help their kids adjust.” 

Although not a live call-in show, the program addresses questions and comments from parents who contact the station, such as where to find Spanish-language children’s literature or how to resolve certain technology issues. 

“It really touches on a broad range of educational topics,” Chaffee said. “The theme of the program is how to empower Spanish-speaking parents to help and support their children from kindergarten through high school.” 

Among the programs to be recorded in coming weeks are interviews with representatives of the Florida Department of Education, Mexican Embassy, nonprofit Center for Applied Linguistics and the Bradenton-based Visible Men Academy, a charter school. Listeners can hear podcasts at https://open.spotify.com/show/6534zUuhQQjTgR9G2Pum5d?si=yF0LDzM4RqGazv-mVZM-Vg.

Chaffee said the program is gaining a following across Southwest Florida and that talks are underway to expand nationally. She said she’s surprised at how much she’s learned from both guests and parents who contact the station – from art lessons to how to identify gifted children.

“I’m in a position now where I can ask a PhD questions and make them relatable to Spanish-speaking parents,” she said. “I’m just so grateful to be able to help them understand how they can support their children.

“It’s been an incredible experience, and I owe so much to my education at USF, learning about curriculum creation, parental engagement, mentorship and so much more,” she said. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for USF and my instructors, especially (Associate Professor) Brianne Reck.”

For more about the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus’ School of Education, visit https://www.usfsm.edu/academics/college-of-liberal-arts-and-social-sciences/school-of-education/index.aspx.

To learn more about the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, visit www.usfsm.edu.


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