Program focuses on Latino education

By Darrell Todd Maurina

Local school officials expressed interest in bringing a program to Clovis that has been shown to improve education for Hispanics.
Ladona Clayton, assistant superintendent of instruction for the Clovis Municipal Schools, introduced three representatives of a program from Albuquerque Tuesday night to a joint meeting of the boards of Clovis Municipal Schools and Clovis Community College.
“I’m really excited to possibly be bringing a program of this quality to our Clovis district,” Clayton said.
Karen Sanchez-Griego, a former teacher and principal who now serves as lead program director for the ENLACE project, said ENLACE, which stands for “Engaging Latino Communities for Education,” was originally developed through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to find ways in which schools can help their Hispanic students.
Each of ENLACE’s 13 programs in seven different states work differently, but in Albuquerque it operates as a partnership between the University of New Mexico and the Albuquerque school district.
“With the Latino population growing, the education level is not growing at the same rate, so they were thinking, ‘if we don’t do something about this, we’re going to have a population that is undereducated and is in the lowest possible jobs with little opportunity to succeed,’” Sanchez-Griego said. “The key to what we wanted to give youth is our family center component.”
The program doesn’t need much beyond a room in the school building, some old furniture, and money to buy snacks, but Sanchez-Griego said the interest and dedication of parent volunteers and others who serve as mentors make it possible to show students that going to college is a real possibility.
“What does a family center look like, and how do you get people to come in?” asked Clovis school board member George Banister.
“Once the kids find out there are snacks, kids come in by the hundreds, and then we tell them, ‘We are going to help you with your education,’” said ENLACE parent volunteer Maria Hines. “Nobody is reaching out to these really tough neighborhoods, but we are able to do so because we are not intimidated because we grew up there.”
Sanchez-Griego said having parents who are actively engaged in their children’s education and know how to bring their concerns to school administrators can prevent problems.
“A lot of our parents are intimidated because they are not educated and don’t feel they can speak up,” Sanchez Griego said.
She said she works with parents to teach appropriate means to address problems that do come up.
“As Hispanics, we do a lot of screaming about other people,” she said. “I’m not trying to say something derogatory about my race because I’ve done a lot of screaming, too. What we do here is make it our goal not to do screaming but to see what we can do to make a difference.”
School board member Terry Martin said he was impressed by the presentation. “If we decide this is something we want to do here in Clovis, will you come out here to help us?” Martin asked.
“Absolutely,” Sanchez-Griego said. “We want to help you by telling you what’s worked for us, but we know that what works in your community may be different, and we’re here to help you find what works for you.”
Clovis Community College President Beverlee McClure said she hoped the program will come to Clovis, and wanted the college to do what it could to assist.