This year, I approached by research and social action project with the lofty ambition of changing the world. After researching the ways that schools and teachers fail their immigrant students, I felt like I had the key for remedying the inequities that immigrant students face. Originally, I wanted to use this research to create a broad program within the D.C. public schools that would mimic the work of the Montgomery County Public Schools’ Equity Initiatives Unit to help form connections between immigrant students and their teachers by allowing students to take part in preparing their teachers as a part of their teacher preparation programs. I had lofty dreams of this programs success and the expansion of the program to other school districts. Needless to say, no such program was created.
Instead, I have learned a valuable lesson in the importance of meeting specific needs in coalition with others. Instead of a widespread program that I thought would create the most meaningful impact, conversations with community members showed me that the most poignant way to make an impact with the D.C. immigrant student community was to support existing programs. Thus, I refocused my work on implementing and fulfilling a needs assessment in partnership with the Latin American Youth Center in D.C. With this needs assessment, we were able to provide necessary resources for students such as school supplies, art supplies, and technology using grant money.
In an effort to still address the cultural proficiency component of my research, I worked with Inés Rénique, the associate producer of the Kojo Nnamdi show on WAMU to provide opportunities for the students at the Latin American Youth Center to be interviewed on the show. Unfortunately, no students were available for interview at the time the show was being recorded. However, as this project was now intended to listen to and respect the needs of the students it was trying to support, merely providing students with the opportunities to share their stories warrants a success.
Ultimately, this project has taught me that, while the final product of my project is not exactly what I had envisioned at the outset of this project, it is more important to formulate projects for communities based on their specific needs. Through this project, I was able to successfully provide opportunities for the Latin American Youth Center to address two of my research findings pertaining to inequalities faced by immigrant students: inequitable resource distribution and lacking cultural proficiency. While only the first portion was executed to the level of success I had envisioned, my partnership with the Latin American Youth Center has shown me that the success of the second portion of my project came by providing the opportunities for students and respecting their needs to meet them where they are. This allowed me to hand the power I have been given to these students who have had their power systematically taken from them.
You can watch my full project presentation here.