Grant Highlight: Migrant Education Program

In American schools, if children sell tacos at lunch, they might be considered a discipline problem. In Mexico, where recess is unsupervised and micro-businesses flourish, this behavior is normal. This was an “aha! moment” for participants in the Migrant Education program’s (MeP) teacher exchange to Michoacán. By staying with families and teaching in Mexican classrooms, they gained a deeper understanding of the cultural differences that challenge migrant students. Healdsburg educator Lauren Rockstad says, “I feel like an ambassador – I’m now willing to speak up for my immigrant students.”

Funded for three years by a Healdsburg Area Fund grant, this local Migrant education Program is the brainchild of elaine Pearson, Isabelle Quiñónez. A separate, federally-funded program brings teachers from Michoacán and Jalisco to Healdsburg and supports migrant education through instructional, health and translation services. The Sonoma County/Michoacán project complements this exchange in reverse.

Creating Bridges: In Mexico, national television and newspapers celebrate the arrival of Healdsburg teachers, whose lessons enrich local curriculum. MeP teachers trade information with their Michoacán colleagues, learn new techniques in interactive education and experience Mexican culture. “To see the vibrant mix was an awakening,” says Lauren, “a whole dimension that was missing.” As a resource for other teachers and migrant parents, she brings her expanded awareness back to Sonoma County.

Roseland university Prep (RuP) students get teased about “going to school in a box.”

The walls of their converted-warehouse campus pulse purple and various university banners wave from the ceiling, reflecting students’ aspirations. They retort proudly, “Who’s going to college?” The Class of 2008, RUP’s first, includes 18 Latino males, rivaling the total from Santa Rosa’s other five traditional public high schools combined.

Organization Profile: Roseland School District Superintendent Gail Ahlas and Principal Amy Jones-Kerr co-founded Roseland University Prep to meet parents’ requests for a college-focused curriculum. Their vision of making college not only a possibility but a probability is reflected in the remarkable 97% graduation rate. RUP has two funds at the Community Foundation: an organization fund and its scholarship fund. Many 2008 graduates will receive college aid through RUP and other Community Foundation scholarships.

When RuP students proudly lead campus tours, they describe how high academic standards, strict, yet big-hearted discipline, encouragement from the President of Sonoma State university and an actual college dorm stay prepare them for higher education. They speak about the value of “adult time” with teachers and how they hope to return to mentor younger students. Their aspirations clearly paint visions for a brighter future. This innovative public charter school is raising its own aspirations even higher with dreams of a new building, soccer field, more counselors, fundraising assistance and additional mentoring volunteers.

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