Candy Suarez - She helps troubled youth get on track

April 23, 2006|By KAREN HANNA

A long, unplanned trip to the hospital ended nursing assistant Candy Suarez's career, but not her will to give.

More than four years after being seriously injured in a car accident, Suarez still finds professional satisfaction in helping others.

"It was very depressing, very, very depressing," Suarez said. "It just took a lot of thinking about what I wanted to do. I could stay at home and be depressed, or find another way to give."

A mother of seven, Suarez, who coaches volleyball and volunteers at breast-cancer events, has worked the past three years as a substitute teacher and intervention specialist. In the course of her second career, from her office at Northern Middle School, she helps troubled students get back on track.

Suarez hasn't looked back, she said.

"My mind was at peace, doing something I enjoyed," she said.

Her computer is covered with notes from students, and pink breast-cancer awareness ribbons hung from a necklace around her neck. Suarez's students and her children dominated the conversation.


"I enjoy taking these students and expressing to them there's so much more out there than what they're doing, these behaviors that they've been exhibiting in class," Suarez said. "I just don't see any other job out there for me."

Suarez, 37, said she spends her after-school hours toting snacks to sporting events, taxiing teenagers, cheering the band, timing cross-country runners' miles and watching scholastic basketball games. Her active children range in age from 8 to 20; her oldest daughter is married and living in Hawaii, she said.

Suarez's mother battled cancer five years ago.

"It was a long road because my mom - she was a young mom - and we basically grew up together, so it was like my sister with cancer," Suarez said.

Suarez said she volunteers for all of the breast-cancer fundraisers she can in honor of her mother, age 53.

"She's cancer-free and doing well," Suarez said with a big grin.

A poster in Suarez's office notes: "People can alter their lives by altering their attitudes."

As a mother, Suarez said, she sometimes is able to use her family as an example for students. Of her seven children, Suarez said three are stepchildren. Three of the children are Hispanic, three are white and one is biracial, Suarez said. She said she tells students none of that matters.

"To me, a parent is a parent," Suarez said. "Whoever is providing for you and caring for you is your parent. To me, the word stepparent shouldn't even be in there."

To reach her students, Suarez said, she treats them with kindness.

"You just have to come down to their level," Suarez said. "I just sort of think, 'If I were in their shoes, what would I do, or how would I act?'"

Some students know no better way to relate than by causing trouble or bullying others, said Suarez, who works with about 30 seventh-graders. While Suarez said she is willing to talk to them and point them in a better direction, she makes clear her expectations.

Many eventually come around, she said.

"That's part of being an intervention specialist," Suarez said. "We try to turn these kids around and make them see they could have a future - a good future."


Name - Candy Suarez

Address - Hagerstown

Date of birth - Nov. 4, 1968

Occupation - Seventh-grade student intervention specialist at Northern Middle School

Most notable achievement - Having a family of nine, and balancing both career and family successfully.

Your proudest moment - The proudest moments in my life were the days that my children were born. Ashley Nichole, Amy Marlene, Brooke Anne and Isaiah Lovell. And also, hearing my stepchildren simply call me mom ... Sabrina, Sarai and Andres.

Who is the person you most admire and why? - My mother, Ina Mayne, for having the courage to go through all her cancer-fighting moments and having a strong will to live.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received? Who gave it to you? - Live each day as if it were your last. Love and care for your loved ones as much as you can despite any heartache that may get in the way. Mom.

What is the next goal you would like to achieve? - I would love to live to see all seven of my children grow up and be happier and healthier than ever.

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