I’m about to become an official “commissioner”. I’m not really into titles, but this one, I want. This commission, I want. This work, I want to do because it’s work that matters.
Because so much depends on the success of the work of this commission. (The White House Commission on Excellence in Hispanic Education). It will advise the President of the United States on what needs to be done to create state-of-the-art, high-quality, proven learning opportunities for our Hispanic students. These are students who so often come to our schools needing something special, something customized to fit them.
These are students who come to us often speaking English as their second language or not speaking English at all. The ability to speak English is essential if you’re going to succeed in the United States. But the ability to speak two languages is a gift; it’s a strategic advantage to our country.
In a global economy where more and more employers are looking for employees who are bilingual, how do we nurture an immigrant student’s first language while ensuring he or she is proficient and comfortable speaking English.
How do we provide learning environments where they become bi-literate? How do we open new and exciting pathways to careers that will treasure and reward the skill of being bilingual?
These are students who often live in poverty. Their parents may be recent immigrants holding down two or three jobs that pay little and have no benefits like health or dental insurance.
How do we reach out to these caring, hardworking parents in non-traditional ways so that they understand what graduation can mean to their children? How do we open a window for them so that they begin to see the way to a university scholarship for their talented kids – something that might seem like another world to them; something that their families have never considered even a remote possibility?
How do we put these possibilities in their minds and in their reach?
These are student who may be here without the proper documentation. Their families are at times living in the economic shadows, here to escape violence and hunger in their home countries. They have brought their children with them, sometimes as infants.
These students often do not even know that they don’t have their documents until it comes time to apply for a job or college or a scholarship. It is then that they discover that they have no country. The old country may be a place they have no knowledge of and the only country they know does not recognize them.
How will we create a pathway to papers for these precious children? How will we encourage them to keep hope alive and not give up on their education?
The Hispanic community is the fastest-growing community in our great country. In a few short years, Latino children will make up 25% of our student population. Our country will not prosper if we waste the gifts of 25% of our future.
Y por eso, manos a la obra. Let’s get to work.