Springfield’s Hispanic Outreach program helps families succeed

Lourdes Narvaez-Soto leads the Hispanic Outreach program in Springfield that helps students and families succeed in the classroom and the community.

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Lourdes Narvaez-Soto leads the Hispanic Outreach program in Springfield that helps students and families succeed in the classroom and the community.

An outreach in Springfield is reaching out to help more families as the number of kids in Clark County who identify as Hispanic doubled from 2002 to 2018.

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The number of kids identified as Hispanic now stands at 500 according to Lourdes Narvaez-Soto, program coordinator of Springfield’s Hispanic Outreach Program, which is coordinated with the Springfield City School District.

In the latest data available from Springfield City Schools, Latinos had a graduation rate of 81 percent—just 3 percentage points behind white students in the district.

But the ongoing national debate over immigration reform affects the program and the Hispanic families living in Clark County.

“Hispanic families in the United States have always lived in fear because of their immigration status, language barrier, and inability to express their frustrations publicly,” Narvaez-Soto said. “The Hispanic Outreach has an ongoing commitment to serve this population and has empowered them and educated about their rights despite their immigration situation.”

Most of the families in the district do feel safe when they approach the program for advice or to share their personal experiences as they seek help according to Soto, but since 2017, she started to notice an increase in anxiety among students and their families.

“They were worried that an immigration agency would deport their loved ones and find out when they returned home from school or work,” Narvaez-Soto said. “We also had students that lost interest in school because they would no longer be able to apply for DACA or a permit that allowed them to stay and work in the states.”

Thr program stays focused on helping those in need, according to Narvaez-Soto.

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“Since we started in 2010, our Hispanic population has almost tripled for which we have made some modifications in order to adapt the services with the needs of our students.” Narvaez-Soto said. “In fact, we now have so many students in middle school and high school that we have modified their curriculum in order to help them achieve their language and academic goals in a timely manner and help them graduate high school.”

The program’s middle-schoolers go to the high school for three consecutive periods of English as a Second Language (ESL) class. Students entering high school and middle school that have had no former education in English have a tutor that shadows them a few times a week during their core classes.

“This year, as a result of the continuous relocation of families from Central America seeking asylum in the United States, we experienced a significant increase in the number of Hispanic students in the elementary school, which is now 300,” Narvaez-Soto said.

She added that more than half of the program’s Hispanic students in elementary schools receive ESL services and many of them require additional support so they can develop the basic interpersonal communication skills in the English language in order to understand the class instruction and succeed in school.

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“Given the fact that our teachers have many students in the classroom and are unable to work on a one-on-one basis with these students because of the language barrier and limited class time, we are working in designing and implementing a pilot program in which the elementary students can all go to one school for part of their day and receive direct instruction specially designed to meet their academic needs,” she said.

The idea is to help those newcomers in elementary school transition into the new learning environment until they get acclimated with the educational expectations and develop basic English language skills.

“We are hopeful to start this program this academic year,” Narvaez-Soto said.

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