By LINDA CHION KENNEY
Hillsborough school officials, recognizing the district’s more than 80,000 students of Hispanic or Latino descent, are celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month with a focus on growing services for multilingual learners countywide.
Superintendent Addison Davis, in his most recent “In-Depth With Davis” video program, highlighted recent and ongoing efforts in step with the multicultural, multinational attributes of Hispanic families countywide, as the celebratory month continues through Oct. 15.
Events on tap through the school district’s Hispanic & Multicultural Outreach include the Hispanic Heroes Book Club, Leyendo con Telemundo Read-In With Telemundo, Latino Education Series, Parent School Partnership School Board Meet and Greet and Graduation, Latinx Documentary Screening and Dreamer Advocacy Summit.
According to Melissa Morgado, the district’s world languages supervisor, test scores are increasing for multilingual students compared to their monolingual counterparts, in part because of the “increase in problem-solving and positive thinking skills” gained in navigating two languages in a learning environment.
“The brain is a muscle,” Morgado said. “The more you work it, the stronger it gets, the sharper it gets, and our two-language, multilingual workers are getting a brain workout every day,” and that’s why “it’s so important to merge dual languages simultaneously.”
Toward that end, dual-language educational offerings, including a Spanish immersion program, have been expanded this year and will be expanded in the future as well, according to school officials.
Also in view are partnerships and programs that aid multilingual learners, including the Pasos al Futuro program and its benefits for students seeking a college education.
In partnership with the University of South Florida, the program is for Hispanic students in grades 8 through 12 and involves ensuring parents of multilingual students get the college materials they need in a language they can understand.
“We’re educating them on the college-planning process, breaking it down into four easy steps: enroll, search, pay, apply,” said Eveleen Garcia, with school counseling services. “Information is in Spanish, their native language, the key information and sources they need to really be on board.”
Recognizing the essential role families play in ensuring a college education, Garcia said the program this year, post-pandemic, will include an in-person outreach initiative on the college campus itself, where students can tour the campus and hear from a panel of students “who look like them and act like them.”
Among the targeted audience is “the huge number of students who have migrated from Cuba,” Garcia said.
“For our parents, this is allowing them to stay true to the commitment they made when they left their countries, under many tumultuous situations,” Garcia said. “They have come here to provide a better opportunity for their students and families, and they’re obtaining the skills that they need, the vocabulary that they need, so they can remain on board and engaged with their students in the process.”
For more on the mission of the school district’s Hispanic and Multicultural Outreach and its related programs, visit www. HillsboroughSchools.org and search accordingly. Contact Jessica De La Prida at 813-272-4228. Email: email@example.com.