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          Front Page




Immigrant Students Need Help to Graduate

By Russell Contreras and Debra Dominguez
Journal Staff Writer
    To make sure immigrant students graduate, some educators say, Albuquerque Public Schools needs to consider a fundamental shift in the way it serves immigrant students.
    One suggestion, from APS board member Miguel Acosta, is to "build alternative schools within schools" that focus on the academic needs of immigrants. The alternative schools could have a Spanish curriculum similar to Mexico's, plus intense English training.
    Acosta says APS and other school districts need to communicate with the Mexican Consulate so there can be better sharing of transcripts and other student information.
    Karen Sanchez-Griego, executive director of ENLACE, agrees that APS needs to look at "systemic changes" for immigrant students. In addition to dropout prevention, she said, the district must help provide health care information and expose students to college opportunities.
    "We need to include whole families in the conversation and let them know what their students need to succeed," says Sanchez-Griego.
    Alan Marks, principal of South Valley Charter High School, says immigrant students encounter a number of obstacles.
    Despite existing New Mexico laws that offer driver's licenses, college in-state tuition and some financial aid to immigrants under certain conditions, many immigrant students say they have to cut through a lot more red tape than their U.S. peers before getting those services.
    And many say they are afraid to take out-of-town field trips for fear of getting caught by the Border Patrol.
    "They're also criminally treated by many employers who use their undocumented status to intimidate them, among other indignities," Marks said.
    On top of that, he said, there's often resentment against "Mejicanos" from Hispanics who have already adapted to mainstream U.S. culture.
    "The status of Mejicanos in our society is very, very low," he said.
    Juan David Terrazas, an Albuquerque High sophomore from Mexico, says immigrant students just need to be encouraged. "I think (immigrants) believe they can't be successful," Terrazas says. "That's not true. We just need to encourage students to go on and not give up."

E-MAIL Journal Staff Writer Russell Contreras and Debra Dominguez