Families also feel an instant connection with Warnemunde upon meeting her. Bilingual family liaisons assist newcomer and English learner families with enrollment and are often the first WDMCS employees they meet. Warnemunde also takes the opportunity to give families her number, letting them know they can call her at any time.
District parent Adriana Hernandez remembers meeting Warnemunde for the first time in 2015 and receiving her contact information. Pagan interpreted during WDMCS School/Community Relations’ interview with Hernandez, who speaks Spanish.
“I knew right there that (Belén) was a person I could rely on,” Hernandez said. She added that Warnemunde has been there for her family as her son has grown from a little boy into a teenager and said, “I always told her that she was born to do this type of job, to help and support us. She’s always had a smile on her face and been friendly. I felt like she was a person I could trust and be open with and tell the things that we feel. She has always been a great person.”
From Colleagues to Sisters
Pagan says Warnemunde’s openness and compassion are crucial to her success as a family liaison, along with her attention to detail and trustworthiness. Pagan relies on her as a colleague too, sharing that Warnemunde catches the smallest details and does everything she can to reach out to families.
“She looks to understand the family’s background, understand where they’re coming from, their home situation, in order to provide the help and support they need,” Pagan said. “She’s made that always a priority.”
The WDMCS bilingual family liaison team. From L-R: Lily Tial, Rosa Pagan, Abdiel Quiroga, Belén Warnemunde, Biak Thang.
Collaborating for 17 years has also created a special bond between Warnemunde and Pagan, who Warnemunde describes as her “rock.” Both from Puerto Rico, they built a lasting friendship through their shared experience, exchanging recipes, memories, and photos of their children and grandchildren.
“I always told her that here in Des Moines, she is my hermana Boricua, my sister — Boricua is a phrase that we use on the island,” Pagan said. “I always felt like whenever I needed something... I could always grab the phone or send a text message. She’s always been there to support me.”
Even though she will miss Warnemunde, Pagan is eager for her to enjoy the next phase of her life and hopefully take some time for herself.
“It will be very different, but I’m also happy for her that she will have time to enjoy the rest of her life and do fun stuff,” Pagan said. “After so many years of working with us, I think she deserves that time.”
Belén’s Real Legacy
It’s with this true legacy of care and compassion surrounding her that Warnemunde looks forward to her retirement from the district. She is excited to spend more time with her family, especially her grandchildren, and looks forward to traveling when it is deemed safe. But she also has a vision for the families she’s supported throughout the years: that they will become more comfortable and feel more welcome in the community.
“I’d hope we could all be together, no matter where we come from and what languages we speak,” Warnemunde said.