May 2020 Newsletter

Categories: News


Supporting Farmworkers During a Pandemic

Essential health programs continue


Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel,

Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel, CEO, Proteus.

The agricultural health program has been busy navigating how Proteus provides health care to farmworkers during this pandemic. Soon after the number of positive cases started increasing in Iowa, the Proteus team adapted services in order to not disrupt farmworkers from accessing health care. Thankfully, the federal government is allowing Proteus to provide telehealth services to patients. These services were implemented rather quickly so that farmworkers could access care while decreasing their potential exposure to COVID-19.

After watching the situation transpire with workers in meat processing and packing plants, Proteus worked proactively to reach out to employers to provide them with best practices and recommendations for protecting farmworkers. This process is ongoing and Proteus continues to work with community partners across Iowa.


Clinical Director, Caroline Johnson and Health Care Manager, Chelsi Barraza out in the community and ready to test a farmworker for COVID-19.

Across the state of Iowa, Proteus has been providing COVID-19 tests to farmworkers experiencing symptoms. Our team has been developing testing protocols, planning for the quarantine and isolation of workers, providing food to farmworkers, and so much more. Recently, summer health aides were brought on board to help expand services when thousands of farmworkers arrive in the state.

In the midst of this pandemic, ten new employees will help Proteus staff provide the necessary services to farmworkers across Iowa and continue to expand the availability of testing for COVID-19.

back to top


Welcome, Monserrat

Bilingual program specialist



Monserrat Iniguez has joined Proteus as temporary bilingual program specialis

Monserrat Iniguez has joined the Proteus staff as temporary bilingual program specialist. In her position, she will manage the Central Iowa Immigrant Support Fund. The CIISF is an initiative of AFSC Iowa, Al Éxito and Proteus to assist the most marginalized central Iowans who do not qualify for government assistance or resources during the global pandemic. The funds will help community members acquire their most basic needs such as rent, utilities, transportation and medicine for themselves and their families.

Knocking on doors in her hometown of Inglewood, California, was Monserrat’s first experience with activism. She was in third grade and accompanying her mother who was in support of education bonds. Later, as a teenager she was trained in transformative community organizing and worked on issues such as public transit justice, community rights, and immigrant and LGBTQ advocacy at the Labor Community Strategy Center.

When Monserrat relocated to Fairfield, Iowa, in 2011, she created a community language arts program called Soapbox Speakeasy. The program provided peer-to-peer education and mentorship through weekly workshops and monthly shows. Four years later, she moved to Des Moines and served as Equity Specialist for Des Moines Public Schools.

Monserrat went on to serve as the Intake Officer for the Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Commission. She later served as the Latino Outreach Contractor, connecting Latinos with resources to become farm owners, for Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Currently, Monserrat serves as chair on the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Board of Directors. In addition, she sits on the research team for the State of Iowa’s Attorney General’s Crime Victims Assistance Division Language Access and Cultural Humility Advisory Group.

As a poet, Monserrat strongly believes, “Our word is our weapon.” Her dream is to publish the stories of the people she encounters so they can truly have ownership of their narratives.

back to top


Moving to United States Bring New Opportunities

Degree offers new career goals


Dana Cowsert

Dana Cowsert is a Case Manager in Indiana.

In April 2018, during an outreach program at Logansport High School, Proteus Case Manager Dana Cowsert, was introduced to Fredy Santamaria. Fredy and his two younger brothers had come to the United States from El Salvador in 2015. Once in the US, Fredy worked for a local grower and met the eligibility requirements for the National Farmworker Jobs Program.

Fredy is on track to graduate from Ivy Tech Community College with his degree in cybersecurity. Then, he will exit NFJP, demonstrating how the National Farmworkers Job Program is so vital to our clients and their success.

Fredy is on track to graduate from Ivy Tech Community College with his degree in cybersecurity with support from NFJP.

Meeting with Fredy, Dana Cowsert remembers the day he shared that he didn’t attend his high school graduation because there was no one to share the moment with. Upon hearing his story, his case manager drove Fredy to the high school and went with him to receive his diploma from the principal’s office. On a later occasion, his case manager was honored to attend Fredy’s graduation from the Associate Accelerated Program. At the ceremony, Fredy earned his associate of science degree and technical certificate, which took him only 11 months to complete while working full-time during the night shift. But Fredy didn’t stop there. His college credits were transferred to another degree in cybersecurity.

Recently, Fredy was hired as an IT support technician for a local underground utility service company. He says it’s a good entry level job, but his dream is to one day work for Google or Microsoft.

Fredy is on track to graduate from Ivy Tech Community College with his degree in cybersecurity. Then, he will exit NFJP, demonstrating how the National Farmworker Jobs Program is so vital to our clients and their success.

back to top


Special Bond Encourages Student

Aime is working toward her early childhood education degree


Jody Stutzan

Jody Stutzan is the Regional Director in Nebraska.

As a high school student, Aime understood the financial burden of going to college, yet it was always her dream to attend. After she graduated from high school, Aime began working for the Head Start program in Hastings, Nebraska. She loved working with the children. In the summer of 2019, she requested to work with the migrant education program at Head Start and that’s where she met Proteus Case Manager Kimberly Fonseca.

As the daughter of a seasonal farmworker, Aime was able to qualify for the National Farmworker Jobs Program. Her father works on a hog farm, making sure they are feed and managing their daily care. There was little time from the time they met to when community college classes were set to begin, but with a lot of hard work Aime was able to qualify for NFJP services before starting school.


Through NFJP, Aime earned her CDA and now she is pursuing her degree.

Once Aime was in NFJP, Proteus was able to provide financial assistance for her tuition and books. This allowed Aime to focus on school and work less. In January 2020, Aime earned a childhood development associate credential through the CDA Council.

Aime is continuing her education and will graduate with an associate’s degree in early childhood development in May 2021. In the meantime, she plans on working for the migrant education program again this summer as she feels a special bond with those students as she was in the migrant education program herself.

back to top


New Career Brings Challenges During COVID-19 Pandemic

Recent graduate enters health care


Jesusa Rivera

Jesusa Rivera is a Case Manager in Indiana.

With the support of the National Farmworker Jobs Program, Kevin Rondon attended to Ivy Tech Community College and then obtained his certification as a certified nursing assistant. He began working at a local hospital at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a health care worker, it’s been a tough plight for him. Nothing will be normal again.

Although he says he’s not scared, he does say it’s a serious situation. As a front line health care worker, he takes all the necessary precautions. He’s received training to make sure he’s safe and he wears personal protective equipment when entering the room of a patient being treated for COVID-19.

Kevin says his daily routine is simple. He comes home from work, takes off his uniform and showers. Making sure he is not putting his family at risk, he makes sure he is totally sanitized. In addition, his family takes vitamins to help their immune system and they wash their hands after every activity. Kevin only leaves the house for work, groceries and emergencies.


After earning his CNA certification as part of NFJP, Kevin is now as health care working helping others.

At home, Kevin’s family eats together, discussing the day’s activities. For entertainment, they play board games or sit on the porch and talk. These activities help to keep their minds of the current situation. Kevin listens to the news and reads articles to stay on top of the latest information about COVID-19.

Kevin is looking forward to resuming activities with friends. He also wants to return to the gym and stay physically active.

Being new to health care, Kevin has learned a lot. One thing that he has learned is to be more detailed about his patient’s information. He has also learned to be more careful when he is taking care of a patient.

He says, “I’m more concerned with the amount of people that are just ignoring others well-being and making this a political situation rather than a health issue.”

Thank you, Kevin, and the many health care workers who are supporting us.

back to top


Keeping Her Promise to Her Father

Pandemic impacts education


Melynda Stutsman

Melynda Stutsman is a Case Manager in Indiana.

When Nayely Quintero and her family moved to Vincennes, Indiana, Nayely tried, but found it hard to complete her high school education. As an alternative, she worked with migrant education to complete her coursework to earn her high school equivalency certificate, but found herself not wanting to go and eventually stopped taking classes.

As a case manager with Proteus, I met Nayely Quintero through her mother Irene Barco. When meeting with Nayely, we discussed how and why she wanted to get her high school equivalency certificate. Working with migrant education, we identified Job Corp as a good fit for Nately. At Job Corp, Nayely could complete her education and also learn a trade.

Picture 2

Through virtual learning, Nayely Quintero is earning her high school certification as part of the National Farmworker Jobs Program.

When a tour of Job Corp was scheduled, Nayely’s mother, and Debbie from migrant education joined us. Following the tour, Nayely was interested and a meeting was scheduled to begin. Due to a health issue, Nayely’s attendance in the program was delayed.

In January, Nayely started the program, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she is now studying from home. Job Corp is working with every student to get the computers and access to the internet needed to continue their education.

With support from the National Farmworker Jobs Program and Job Corp, we’ll continue to help Nayely keep her promise to her deceased father and graduate from high school.

back to top


Certification Opens Doors to Bright Future

Language barrier doesn’t slow her down


Miriam Sonderborg is a Case Manager in Indiana.

Miriam Sonderborg is a Case Manager in Indiana.

Gricelda Francisco Mateo, the oldest of six children, is a Guatemalan native of a Mayan descent. Her life story began in the small province of Huehuetenango San Sebastian Coatan. When her father immigrated to the United States in search of a better life for his family, Gricelda’s mother stayed behind to take care of her and her siblings. After several years, and one by one, the family reunited and became citizens of this country.

When Gricelda was 16, she arrived to the US and experienced culture shock. She spoke a dialect (Chuj) and broken Spanish, causing her to struggle with the English language. When she graduated from Logansport High School, it wasn’t her plan to further her education. Yet, her English teacher, Elisa Banuelos, she saw great potential in this young woman and referred her to the National Farmworker Jobs Program.

Gricelda's Pic

With support from Proteus, Gricelda is one of few students completing the CNA program in less than eight months.

In 2019, Gricelda joined NFJP. Although she was shy and soft spoken, she was the perfect fit the program because of her strong desire to help herself and her family. Once accepted, Gricelda decided to pursue the certified nursing assistant program at Job Corps. Although the English language was a barrier, she passed all the academic requirements and started classes. When tested, she passed the skills portion of the state certification program, but failed the written portion – yet her determination was greater. Retaking the exam, Gricelda earned her certification – completing the program in less than eight months! In addition to earning her CNA certification, Gricelda passed her driver’s exam, giving her the freedom and independence to join the workforce without having to rely on someone to drive her.

All in all, Gricelda has conquered many challenges – being shy and soft spoken and her fear of the English language – to pass her state board exam. Through NFJP, Gricelda was supported with strong case management and financial assistance. She continues to thrive and hungers for knowledge. She has completed additional training to increase her confidence, exploring the many opportunities the workforce has to offer. The next step for this amazing young woman is on-the-job training.

Gricelda’s future looks bright. She has found great resources, gained self-confidence, and has a heart full of dreams!

back to top