Latino students empowered in action
February 19, 2014
Holly Ray received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology and her Master’s degree with English as a Second Language endorsement from the University of Utah. She said she has always been interested in other cultures, and being the Latinos in Action teacher at Treasure Mountain Junior High has given her a platform to explore.
"I have always really loved culture and loved studying different cultures; it just felt like what I should be doing," she said. "I started volunteering at West High School when I was working on my Master’s, and they had an English teaching program there for refugees that I loved."
After Anna Williams at Park City High School brought the Latinos in Action program to town five years ago, Ray said she saw the changes it made and wanted to offer it to Treasure Mountain students. She has now been the Latinos in Action teacher at the junior high for four years.
The Latinos in Action classes at the high school, junior high and Ecker Hill Middle School are centered on community service. Bilingual students perform individual community service throughout the school year while also studying their heritage, learning studying and test-taking skills and discussing college readiness.
"It has really made a difference in the culture at Treasure Mountain, because it gives the students a stage," she said. "They are unbelievably talented and have this rich culture and heritage which had no way to be measured. They have never really had a chance to show all that they came with."
The class not only celebrates the students’ culture but also immerses them into the culture of Park City with a community service requirement. Every quarter, each student must perform at least 10 hours of community service, and with 27 students, Ray said the total every quarter is usually 400-500 hours combined.
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Students are free to participate in the organization of their choosing, and Ray said her students usually volunteer at the Recycling Center, St. Mary’s, the Christian Center or Furburbia, among others. However, this year is the first that Ray and her students all came together for a community service project that will extend to the end of the school year.
Carmen Cuevas, Ashley Juarez and Jhoana Loera are three Treasure Mountain students who accompanied Ray at The Market on Saturday, Feb. 8, selling reusable grocery bags. They will also be selling the bags at Anaya’s Market and the PCSD Parent Teacher Conference on Wednesday, Feb. 26.
"I think it’s great that the Recycling Center is doing this," Cuevas said. "We need to start caring more about this, because it’s hurting our environment."
Loera added that plastic bags take 1,000 years to biodegrade, and most of the plastic bags end up in the ocean, harming marine life and causing extinction of different species.
The proceeds go to the Recycling Center, and they have raised $150 for the center so far. They plan to keep selling the bags and donating the proceeds through the end of the school year.
Ray said her students also serve their fellow PCSD students by helping those at Parley’s Park Elementary School in dual-immersion classrooms. The students go to Parley’s twice a week and help students whose first language may not be English.
"The students get to go in and help the students who are struggling to learn English," she said. "My students know what is like and how difficult that can be, so they step into these classrooms and help these kids with reading or math or help the teacher, whatever is asked of them."
When it comes to college readiness, Ray said they discuss what measures they need to be taking at the junior high level and what they will need to do once they reach the high school. LIA at the high school also holds Latino Parent Nights that help inform Hispanic parents "who may not know a lot about the [secondary education] system" about how they can help their children.
LIA helps prepare the parents and their students for college by discussing things like tests, applications, scholarships and FAFSA. The LIA students have a room where they watch attendees’ children so they are free to go and listen to the presentations. They also serve dinner, so the entire family is welcome to the events.
Ray said she is happy to be part of a program that encourages Hispanic students to celebrate, be proud and inform others of where they come from as well as where they are headed.
"I think it has benefitted the entire school, because they are sharing who they are," she said. "The students see that their bilingualism is actually an amazing talent that is going to benefit them throughout their life."