Mon November 4, 2013
Support & encouragement for Latino students
Students from Buffalo's Latino community gathered last Friday in the WNED-TV studios for a summit and special viewing of a PBS Independent Lens film The Graduate-Los Graduados. WBFO's Eileen Buckley reports on how the documentary brings to light the challenges Latino students are facing in America.
Six Latino and Latina students appear in the film from different parts of the U.S. Emily Task serves as manager of Students Success for the Children's Aid Society at the Fannie Lou School in the Bronx.
Task recently appeared in Buffalo as public school students gathered to watch this film where they were encourage to aim for college education. But Task says in order to make that a reality, "early exposure" is key.
"Really to connect every student with a caring adult and to coach and walk them through this whole process and to really encourage high school as the rehearsal," said Task.
Task participated in a panel discussion at the local summit in Buffalo. The PBS film is presented in two nights. Part two airs Monday night.
The teens stories range from attending a tough school with concerns of violence, a homeless teen and a female student who dropped out because of pregnancy.
Task tells WBFO News it is important for public schools to be surrounded with resources and connections to support the college goal.
"We know that teachers are unbelievable humans but they are not super human, so if they can focus on making an engaging classroom," said Task. "That it is a community approach, rather than believing it is just one adult or one kid who can push through on their own."
One of the students from the Fannie Lou Hamer school is graduate Joy McBride. McBride is from South Bronx, but she now attends Canisius College in Buffalo. Task helped guide McBride to Canisius.
"If I didn't have the help of the Students Success Center -- I don't think I would be in Buffalo at Canisius College right now," said McBride. "I had to focus. I had to blank everyone out and be in my own world. I had to finish my own applications."
McBride admits to facing a cultural divide. She is African American and Latina and is still working to adjust in a new city and college life.
"Well at home I grew up in a black and hispanic neighborhood, and that's where my school was," said McBride. "And coming to Buffalo, Canisius is a predominately white school. I didn't know how to adjust to it."
We continue to hear in our community that many elementary and high school students have to deal with major language barriers. Not only are they learning course work, but many struggle to learn English.
Tamara Alsace is director of Multi-Lingual Education for the Buffalo Public School District.
She says even though students learn the English language, many struggle to adapt to American culture.
"Imagine learning physics in a language that isn't your first language," said Alsace. "Students need more time. They need a lot of supports."
Alsace notes schools and community need to do more to look at the assets these students bring from their countries to help develop bilingual citizens who can be a success in a global society.
Buffalo Public School teacher Ezequiel Ruiz teaches at International Prep in Buffalo. He said the summit and review of the film was "extremely important" for Buffalo's Latino students that attended.
"It hit home for most of our students," said Ruiz. "They're able to see that other students have similar experience and were able to succeed."
Following the film, some of the Buffalo students turned to Ruiz saying they want to make changes for themselves.
As McBride moves ahead in her first year of college, she offers a message to Buffalo students not to become discouraged.
"Don't give up, and that's such a cliché - everyone says don't give up," said McBride. "If you really want something, you are going to go after it."