CISD excited to educate first group of Hispanic youth

Jan 9, 2012

COMMERCE - What started as a mission to provide English as Second Language classes to Hispanic families almost two years ago has blossomed into Commerce becoming a Mexican Consulate-sanctioned Community Plaza.

Submitted to KETR:

The purpose is to educate Hispanic young people and adults for success in life and work.

The grand opening celebration of the Commerce Community Plaza will be held from 6-8 p.m. Monday, January 23, 2012 at A. C. Williams Elementary School at 615 Culver Street in Commerce, Texas. Dignitaries from the Mexican Consulate in Dallas, Texas A&M University-Commerce and Commerce ISD as well as families who will be served by the Plaza will participate in the celebration of Hispanic culture.

The Fusion Dance Group from Texas A&M University-Commerce will perform in Ballet Folklorico style and a salsa and enchilada cooking contest will be held.

Maria Garza has been hired by CISD as a part-time coordinator of the Plaza, which will be housed at A. C. Williams Elementary School. Garza is a senior minister at the First Christian Church in Commerce and has experience coordinating community outreach programs.

Her initial job at the Plaza is to organize volunteers and invite the first cohort of families to begin services on February 6. Services include tutoring in basic literacy, elementary and intermediate level education; English as a Second Language instruction, GED in Spanish preparation courses and citizenship classes.

Community volunteers including students from Texas A&M University-Commerce and CISD staff will provide one-on-one tutoring as well as group instruction. Using a program developed by the Mexican National Institute of Adult Education (INEA), Garza will conduct diagnostic tests and then prescribe an individual course of study using the online curriculum.

Always in search of new ways to help students achieve, Wes Underwood, principal of ACW Elementary School, and Linda Grubert, a teacher at the school, began looking at available educational programs  for families through Region X Educational Service Center and became introduced to Jose Velazquez,  Migrant/ESL Consultant at the Service Center.  Velazquez spent a day in Commerce telling his compelling family story as an English Language Learner and sharing ideas about programs and funding for family literacy. The team, including Julia Robinson, director of curriculum for CISD and other ACW staff learned of the Community Plaza program offered through the Mexican Consulate and began work to apply for site permission. Meanwhile, the team worked to facilitate funding for the program and attempt to determine the level of interest by Hispanic families.

After a lengthy approval process that included gaining permission from the Mexican ambassador, the CISD site finally got the go ahead to proceed in late September.

Robinson says the vision for the program has mushroomed since its inception. “We’ve learned of so many willing partners, volunteers and opportunities that we’ve had to step back and concentrate on basic services for the initial cohort,” she said. Organizers see continued growth as interest develops and offerings expand.

With no other Plaza currently operating east of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, the Commerce site opening should have a positive impact in the northeast Texas area, according to Robinson.

“By helping Hispanic parents complete their education, we will undoubtedly help them support their own children in our classrooms, making it a win-win situation for us all,” Robinson said.