By Helena Rodriguez: PNT Correspondent
For more than four decades, Gloria Ortega was a familiar face at Eastern Plains Head Start. Though she retired as site manager in 2007, Ortega continued, up until her illness over a year ago, to be an active volunteer with the program.
Ortega began her association with Head Start in 1972 as a teacher’s aide, and thereafter had grandchildren and great-grandchildren go through the program. She also saw generations of other children grow up after leaving the school’s doors.
On Thursday, the Portales Head Start honored Ortega, who died May 30, by placing a memorial plaque in her honor in the school’s entry way. Ortega’s four surviving children all attended the ceremony and announced their intentions to begin a Gloria Ortega Memorial Scholarship.
“Gloria was a special person, colleague and mentor and Head Start was her life. She loved the children, was always laughing and she always had good things to say about everybody,” said Neva Ortega, director of the Portales Head Start. “Gloria is gone, but she will be with us forever in our hearts because she was truly a great person.”
In announcing the establishment of a Gloria Ortega Memorial Scholarship, her son, Manny, said, “My mom wanted everyone she came in contact with to succeed, but she never wanted recognition for herself. In her spirit of always giving, she is still giving.”
According to Ortega, details on the formal establishment of the scholarship will be forthcoming, but he said the initial goal is to award a scholarship to a local high school graduate who attended Head Start.
The fund will begin with about $1,000, and then he said events, such as golf tournaments, will be held in hopes of raising money to award scholarships in the future to students in all of the towns that Gloria covered in her position as site manager of Eastern Plains Head Start. Towns such as Fort Sumner and Santa Rosa.
Neva said that Gloria, although a site manager, would still drop in and visit classrooms and would become a child herself, enjoying dancing and telling “cuentos” or Hispanic folk tales to the students.