Caring Success Coach and Committed Mother Go from Worker and Client to Co-workers

Featuring the work of Pine Creek Elementary School Success Coach, Rebecca Leal


Meeting with Deloris Garcia ("Dee"), it's plain to see that this is a woman who is adored by her children and valued by the families and school staff at Pine Creek Elementary in Holland, Michigan.

"She is a hard worker who does great things for her children," says Rebecca Leal, who has been working with Garcia for five years at Pine Creek Elementary. Deloris is mom to Arianna (age 6), Gabriel (age 7) and Kegan (age 12).

 Deloris Garcia

Adults Aren't the Only Ones Who Benefit From Pathways to Potential in the School

When Dee Garcia became a mother, she was a senior in high school with a job at a roller rink. She had a baby boy at age 17 and still graduated with the support of her mother and assistance in the form of food stamps and WIC from the Department of Human Services (DHS). When Dee's son started first grade at Pine Creek, her case transferred to the school which was operating as a Family Resource Center (FRC). That's when she met Leal.

"The nice thing about having a worker at the school, is that it's so much more personable. If I had a question or concern about my case, I could just go in Ms. Leal's office and didn't need to make an appointment or wait for a long time," said, Garcia. She went on to explain that less stress makes clients easier to get along with which ultimately makes it easier for the worker.

"And, my kids love her! If I can't find them in the morning, I know I can go to Ms. Rebecca's office and there they are," said, Garcia. And, the feeling is mutual. "I love children," states, Leal. "I spent 20 years working in early childhood education before coming to work for DHS so working in this school is very comfortable for me."

From Worker-Client to Co-workers – the Evolution of a Relationship

To hear Ms. Garcia rave about her Success Coach, you know that the support she provided extended far beyond answering questions about her DHS paperwork. "When I can't reach my mom by phone, I go into Ms. Rebecca's office," said, Garcia with a laugh. Ms. Leal's support and encouragement have given Garcia the confidence she needs to go from classroom volunteer to a paid position as an Education Assistant and three-year president of the Pine Creek PTO.

As for Ms. Leal, Ms. Garcia isn't the only parent she has provided with tremendous support and encouragement. "I work with a lot of families who have come a long way," said, Leal. As a bi-lingual success coach, she has acted as liaison and advocate for the school's many households where Spanish is the primary language spoken. "They are comfortable with me and know that I will act in their best interest." said, Leal. Because she is so humble, Ms. Leal did not share the letters of Spanish-speaking parents who also wrote to DHS singing her praises. She didn't feel comfortable translating letters that were written about her. It's probably safe to say that if DHS did have those letters translated, they would describe a very caring and committed success coach.

This article is one of a series highlighting community partners working with DHS to improve attendance in Michigan schools. Through Pathways to Potential, Department of Human Services has placed success coaches and other employees in over 200 schools across the state. These people work one-on-one with families to identify and remove barriers to children attending school. We are always looking for new partners, volunteers and donors. Visit to learn how you can get involved.