Meet Waleska Arroyo, Common Ground’s Kitchen Assistant
By Izabella Eichensehr, CG ’23, Education Change Intern
On a recent Wednesday morning, I asked Waleska Arroyo if I could interview her for the Common Ground blog – and she made time right then and there! She joined the Common ground staff in September, about 6 months ago. She is still relatively new and learning new things, but she still has lots of insight to share for us.
I am the kitchen assistant, and I prepare most of the foods found in the salad bar. You can also find me on Tuesday afternoons working with the After-School Cooking Club.
What are your previous work experiences?
I worked in education for about 20 years. I was an early child preschool teacher with the Board of Education here in New Haven. Then I branched off and joined the CT Children Museum team as the coordinator of the ABC’s School of Readiness. My project provided parents with quality books, activities, and resources to support their children’s development.
I am also a cosmetologist, master nail technician, and makeup artist. I taught cosmetology, barbering, and esthetics for 9 years. I was a salon owner along with my mother. Unfortunately, we were forced to close due to the COVID pandemic.
What skills do you have?
I’m pretty versatile. I am personable, a quick learner (more visual), and I work well with others. I am creative, a motivator, empathetic, and a team player. I am bilingual and I know some simple ASL (preschool level). I have also made braille books for blind and low vision children. Currently I am training to become a Wellness and SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) yoga instructor.
What part about Common Ground made you come here? What motivates you to stay?
I love cooking. It’s therapeutic to me. I love being at CG surrounded by nature. Common Ground reminds me a lot of my childhood experiences. I had the best of both worlds growing up. I am originally from Puerto Rico, but I was raised in Connecticut. My summers and school vacations were pretty much on a farm back home.
Something that motivates me to stay is working with children and young people. It’s rewarding to me being here at Common Ground gaining new skills and knowledge of Farm to School.
What advice would you give students?
Focus on the positive. I know we live in the times we do and there’s a lot of negativity in the world, but I always say that anytime you have negative things happening in your life, counterbalance it with something positive. You can do anything that you put your mind to.
What do you want students and families to know about you as a person?
I am an advocate for immigrants, women, children, and families. I am a huge supporter of domestic violence awareness, mental health awareness, and early childhood intervention. My next goals are to become a health and a life coach. Another one of my future goals is to become a Doula, and provide safer birthing conditions for minority parents.
A quote that I have lived by is, “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” – Robert Greene