Dreamers request more bilingual teachers, more resources


Bearcat Dreamers and Allies speak to School Board

PASO ROBLES — At Tuesday night’s board meeting a line of students, teachers and counselors who call themselves “PRHS Dreamers and Allies” took turns at the podium, asking for more support from the school board for more resources for Dreamers, English Language Learners and Spanish speakers at PRJUSD who, they say, struggle with “fitting in” and do not have the same opportunities as other students.

Four “Dreamers” spoke, as well as five “Dreamer Allies:” teachers, counselors and fellow high school students. Many gave words of gratitude for programs like AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), tutoring support and for the help from caring teachers as well as thanks for Trustees Matt McClish, Kathleen Hall and Tim Gearhart for speaking for immigrant families at a recent Paso Robles City Council Meeting and forum discussing the City’s role in SB-54, the “Sanctuary State” Bill.

Later in the meeting Superintendent Chris Williams commended the students for their speeches at the podium and Trustee Joel Peterson admitted that hearing stories of the Dreamers at the City meeting brought him to tears. The Dreamers and allies spoke during the open forum portion of the meeting. 

The speakers asked for more attention to new arrivals at PRJUSD schools — namely: English learning services, more bilingual paraeducators, more pay for bilingual staff, more support for “newcomers” mental health services, family advocacy and financial support.

“Because all means all, we ask you as a Board to pass a resolution that declares your support for all students regardless of immigration status, so all students feel safe and protected at our schools,” said Bearcat Dreamer Dainzu Carrillo, who will be attending Cuesta College after high school.

The DREAM Act of 2001, to which “Dreamers" were named after, provides a means for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, to gain a pathway to legal status, provided they attend college, have good moral character and have not violated other immigration laws, among other things. According to CA.gov, the California Dream Act is behind an application that allows students enrolled in eligible California colleges, universities and career education programs to apply for state financial aid.

Dreamer Ally and PRHS junior Jeraly Escamilla told the board, “Paso Robles High School is almost 50 percent Latino and yet there are no Latinos on the high school full-time teaching staff.”

Escamilla said the more teachers understand their experiences, cultures families and dreams, the more connected to school they feel. Escamilla said her group would like PRJUSD to “radically change” their hiring policies to “keep pace with our changing student population.”

She added, “Please find teachers who look like us, pronounce our names correctly, go to the same churches and markets, and show us what success for someone like me looks like.”

Teacher and Bearcat Dreamer Ally Geoffrey Land said, “More than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education overturned the ‘separate but equal doctrine,’ our Latino students still face and uneven playing field.”

Land would like the board to rethink the approach to the needs of newcomers and English learners to ensure they are graduating college and career ready. “Our newcomers deserve such excellence,” he said. “Let us commit to a growth mindset to assemble and hire the team that will fulfill our charter to every student at our high school.”

You may reach Reporter Beth Giuffre at [email protected] for questions and/or feedback.

Photo by Beth Giuffre

Janet de la Cruz, a Bearcat Dreamer, PRHS junior and future Compas tutor, said newcomers are often placed in mainstream science and math classes, and struggle with both language and concepts. She asked the board to "hire enough bilingual paraeducators to enable struggling English learners to succeed in mainstream classes, which is required by law." 

 

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