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Through Their Lens: Meet the vice principal inspiring Capitol View Elementary students to dream big

In a new Local 5 series, “Good Morning Iowa” anchor Chenue Her is following the staff at Capitol View Elementary and sharing their stories.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Working in education has its challenges as teachers and staff find the best ways to help each child learn. But for one elementary school in Des Moines, the obstacles are far more unique because of their student population.

In a new series Local 5 is launching, “Through Their Lens”, “Good Morning Iowa” anchor Chenue Her is following the staff at Capitol View Elementary and sharing their stories.

For Noemi Mendez, there is not a face coming through Capitol View Elementary that she doesn't greet.

Her official title is Vice Principal, but the task she takes on is so much more.

“We are one of the largest elementary schools out of 38 in Des Moines Public Schools, predominately a large Latino population,” said Mendez.

Capitol View Elementary’s student population is more than 60% Latino. In 2019, Latinos make up about 6.3% of Iowa's population.

That number rose to 6.8% in 2020.

Mendez said the school also has a large immigrant and refugee population, presenting her and the staff with challenges unique to Capitol View.

“We also are going to be doing training to support those students and everybody else with the trauma they come with because it's not just language barriers but there's also trauma with how they come to the united states,” Mendez said.

Between the trainings, class visits and her work as vice principal, Mendez wants to inspire her students to dream big.

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“When I walked into the school, a beautiful, Latina, young lady was like … excited to have a new cafeteria lady," Mendez recalled. "My mind went right to 'That's all they see.' You get that a lot when you go into buildings and people assume you're the support instead of being someone in leadership or an educator."

Mendez said this isn’t where she wants her students' dreams to end on.

“When I grow up, I want to be a scientist,” said Valera Leanos-Delara, a student.

“A vet person to help animals,” said Clara Terrazas, another student who chimed in.

The seeds have been planted and now, Mendez and her staff hope the inspiration grows.

“To me it's just amazing to reassure them that one day they can be a leader in our community,” Mendez said.

Capitol View has around 500 students, making them one of the largest elementary schools in Des Moines.

At least half of those students take English Language Learner, or ELL, classes.

In the next “Through Their Lens” feature, Vice Principal Mendez talks about the ELL program and why it's crucial to their success.

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