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Saturday, September 24, 2022
Home Education School Immigrant Students: Embracing Diversity at School

Immigrant Students: Embracing Diversity at School

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With demographic changes happening so fast, how are area schools meeting the needs of English-learner immigrant students and their families?

 

  Karen Rusinos is a sixteen year old student at Annapolis High School with long dark hair and a thoughtful demeanor. With her bright pink shirt and decidedly American mannerisms, you might not guess that she came to this country from El Salvador at the age of ten with her younger sister, traveling in cars and buses together one stretch at a time for an entire month. Alyssa Spagnola, also sixteen, is seated next to her. She’s a bold, funny, and ambitious student at South River High School. Her grandfather came to this country from Mexico; her mother is an engineer at NASA. The two girls are attending a meeting of the Hispanic Youth Leadership Council. Their personal histories could not be more different, which turns out to be true of all the students at the meeting. Even those whose families hail from the same country have incredibly diverse backgrounds. When asked what it is that they do have in common, the seven Hispanic student leaders from various public high schools in Anne Arundel County nearly all speak at once.

 

“Prejudice!” they exclaim. Katie Cuevas, of Arundel High School, elaborates: “We all face the same stereotypes. People think we’re going to get pregnant and drop out of high school.” Cindy Herrera from Annapolis High School adds, “They think we’re not going to college. They think our dads all work in landscaping and our moms are all maids!” This newly formed group is working to engage Hispanic students, foster new student leadership, and combat negative stereotypes at the twelve high schools in their school district. In 1999, there were 1,580 Hispanic students (K-12) enrolled in the Anne Arundel County public school system. In 2009, there were 5,204. The Hispanic student population has more than tripled in the past ten years, and it is anticipated that the numbers will continue to increase. Other immigrants, from countries such as Pakistan, India, and Vietnam, are also developing larger, more established communities in Anne Arundel County. With demographic changes happening so fast, how are area schools meeting the needs of English-learner immigrant students and their families? And what kinds of challenges do immigrant parents face when it comes to supporting their children academically in a new culture?

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