Buddy program meant to bridge cultural gaps at DHS
During a seminar period at De Soto High School, Manuel De Leon looked over at a group of fellow Hispanic students talking only with each other and frowned.
"They're talking Spanish right now instead of learning anything," he said.
Manuel, Myra Calderone and Dina Carlos want students at De Soto High School to learn about their native Hispanic culture before making assumptions. They also want to help new Hispanic students have an easier transition into the American culture. That's why they got involved in the buddy program, which pairs students from typical American backgrounds to students from Hispanic cultures.
Carla Phillips, facilitator of the program and an English as a Second Language teacher, said the program was started to help Spanish-speaking students at De Soto learn English, understand homework lessons in English and meet students with different cultural backgrounds. She said the population of Spanish-speaking students at De Soto's schools was quickly growing. There are about 16 to 20 students in the English as a second language program.
"At the high school level, there's too many cliques going on, and students need to learn to reach out to one another," she said.
The buddy program is an extracurricular group and members often take field trips together or share fun activities, such as a Cinco de Mayo festival. Phillips serves as one of the teachers that Spanish-speaking students can go to for help, but she said pairing them with other students helped transition Hispanic students.
"These students are all volunteer," she said. "So they want to do this."
Manuel, Myra and Dina all have parents who grew up in Mexico. Myra said many families in the De Soto area come from the Mexican states of Jalisco and Zacatecas. Manuel and Myra have mostly grown up in the United States, but said they're concerned for their fellow Hispanic students who might not be getting the same learning experience because they have trouble speaking English.
"In class, there's not a lot of teachers who can help speak Spanish," Myra said. "They have to be able to learn (other subjects) while they're learning English."
Dina said although no one in De Soto seemed discriminatory toward Hispanic students, sometimes people got the wrong idea about her culture.
"Sometimes people stare at you when you don't speak English as well," she said.
Myra said she believed people in the Hispanic culture should be able to speak English and Spanish fluently.
"We're in a country where English is mostly spoken, so we need to learn," she said.