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Para family trees

Job that provides ‘sense of purpose’ spans generations in hundreds of households
New York Teacher

Encouraged by their sister Susan O’Rourke (second from right), a school secretar

Union proud logo para
Susan O’Rourke, a school secretary at PS 23 on Staten Island, encouraged her three older sisters to become paraprofessionals.

Anthony Sanchez, his wife, Alejandra, and his mother, Juana, are all paraprofessionals in schools in Queens.

Christina Cingari and her daughter, Brianna, are both paraprofessionals who followed in the footsteps of their mother and grandmother, Mary Valva, now retired.

These three families are among the hundreds of New York City families with more than one member — siblings, parents, aunts and uncles and, in some cases, three generations — employed as paraprofessionals.

“It should come as no surprise that we have many families of paraprofessionals because it’s a job that provides a sense of purpose and, thanks to the union, also provides economic stability and excellent benefits,” said Paraprofessionals Chapter Leader Shelvy Young-Abrams.

Contract by contract, from the beginning of the chapter’s founding 50 years ago, the UFT has negotiated improved pay, working conditions and benefits for paraprofessionals. Once one family member becomes a para and realizes all the job provides, the word goes out.

MaryAnne Petrozzo of PS 204 in Brooklyn and her two sister paras find a deep sense of joy in their new careers and security as union members.

“You really realize that sense of security when you walk into a doctor’s office for the first time and know you have full health coverage,” Petrozzo said.

Like many other paras, Alejandra Sanchez, a para at PS 229 in Maspeth who is married to another paraprofessional, finds being in the classroom more rewarding than working in an office. She is grateful for the union’s Career Training Program, which enabled her to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Raul Delhoyo, a para for 14 years before becoming a school counselor at Choir Academy in Harlem two years ago, is the son of a para, Carmen Delhoyo. His mother, who works at PS 169 in Manhattan, is planning to retire after 25 years. He says paras are “valued and respected” by the rest of the school community and teachers often seek their advice.

“District 75 couldn’t function without its paras,” Delhoyo said.

Anthony Sanchez, his wife, Alejandra (left), and his mother, Juana (right), were

Brianna Cingari (left), her mother, Christina (right), and her grandmother, Mary

“They remember the mom in me,” Cassandra Deas (left) said of the scores of stude

The Ceja siblings see themselves paving the way to good union jobs that guarante

Aida Talavera and her daughter Crystal share their “passion for working with chi

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