Midd State News

Henry Folgoso and Dani Ortega: Attaining the American Dream Together

Posted on: December 27, 2018
Folgoso Family

At the beginning of the month we read the Journal-News article written by Staff Writer Michael D. Clark about Middletown City School District’s (MCSD) own Henry Folgoso’s journey to attaining the American Dream. But the excitement does not stop there! Henry’s wife Ms. Dani Ortega, MCSD GATE teacher at Amanda Elementary, a Middletown City school, also received her American citizenship.

Henry and Dani were both born in Barranquilla, Colombia. In June 2002, during a visit with Henry’s aunt, Vera Slamka (owner of Middletown staple Central Pastry, no less), the couple pursued immigrating to the U.S. Dani received a job offer from Cathie Mulligan, former Fenwick High School principal and current MCSD board member, to teach Spanish at Fenwick High School. Henry’s Aunt Vera worked with lawyers to get the couple temporary work visas so they could stay in the U.S. Dani soon received a job offer from Middletown High School to teach Spanish while Henry worked at Central Pastry.

Determined to help the young couple, the MCSD Human Resources Department worked with Dani on the temporary work visa process that resulted in a five-year renewal. It was a different story for Henry. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) revoked his temporary worker status, instead giving him H4 status, or spouse of a temporary worker. During this time, the couple welcomed their daughter Isabella to the world and Henry started volunteering at Faith United Methodist Church and became an advocate for the Latino Community.

The MCSD Curriculum Department invited Dani to be part of the GATE (Gifted and Talented) program, so she worked on and received her Gifted Education endorsement, which made her eligible to apply for a permanent residence visa or Green Card. In 2008, the family’s immigration lawyer asked the family to move back to Columbia for a year so they could start the naturalization process.

Thinking their whole American Dream was shattered, the Folgoso family finally received good news in October 2009.  The first step of the entire residency process was approved and on January 11, 2010, at the US embassy in Bogotá (the Colombian Capital), the couple received their Temporary Visas and they moved back to the U.S. five days later.

Once back, and with the help of their lawyer, Henry and Dani started the second and final step of the residency process. Three years later, INS granted them Permanent Resident Cards (or Green Cards) and Work Authorization Cards. By this time, their daughter was in school at one of Middletown’s elementary buildings, Henry was studying at the United Theological Seminary, and Dani was thriving as a GATE teacher. In 2015, Middletown Schools offered Henry the position of ELL (English Language Learners) Parent Liaison, a job he still holds today. Henry is now the associate pastor at First United Methodist Church.

The Folgoso family continued to wait patiently for the naturalization process to proceed. As Permanent Residents through Work, one must wait at least five years in order to apply for U.S. Citizenship. This past summer, Henry and Dani applied. INS approved their application and on Monday, October 29, 2018, the couple took and passed the citizenship test. One week later, they were sworn in as official U.S. Citizens.

The American Dream is attainable, but is not easy. The Fogoso family fought for American citizenship for roughly 16 years. This Holiday Season, the Folgosos have much to celebrate. On behalf of the entire Middletown Community, the district welcomes them to America--officially and finally!