Seldom do students and teachers practice gratitude and self-analysis like in our Latinos in Action...
Almost twenty years ago, a teacher with Provo City School District named José Enriquez created the Latinos in Action course, sowing the seeds that would mature into a national organization. Latinos in Action, for those unfamiliar, is a program that sees our Hispanic students for who they are and what they can become– leaders, innovators, and full of potential.
We recently visited Provo High School to celebrate the program, speak to students about previous Latinos in Action projects, and learn more about future events.
To paraphrase the Latinos In Action (LIA) Mission Statement, Latinos in Action is a year-long elective course using an asset-based approach to bridge Latino students’ graduation and opportunity gap, working from within the educational system to create positive change. The program focuses on four pillars: leveraging personal and cultural assets, excelling in education, serving the community, and developing leadership skills.
In 2015, the White House Initiative on Excellence in Hispanic Education awarded LIA the White House Bright Spot for Hispanic Education. It’s a program with invaluable merits for our Hispanic students.
Throughout October Latinos in Action class periods, students familiarize themselves with each other, developing a collaborative base to organize events, eventually performing in a joint performance with Provo High School Choir, co-planned by the four Latinos in Action committees.
These committees are Professional, Service, Fundraiser, and Social committees. Each committee offers an opportunity to practice leadership, project management, and service related to their unique assets and goals.
“For the event, each of our four committees prepared a portion of a thirty-minute dance,” said Kim, one of four Latinos in Action Committee Presidents. Kim explained that the group scheduled time to practice their dances in the gym and organized each committee to deliver a cohesive group performance.
Christian, the Vice President of the Professional Committee, explained that students with dance backgrounds had an opportunity to teach dance moves. Students performed a medley of dances including the Huapango, a couples dance characterized by complex footwork, a Cumbia Wepa, a traditionally Colombian dance modernized with a hallmark heavy downbeat and accentuated upbeats, and a Bachata, a four-step dance representative of romantic entanglements, heartbreak, and how one copes with heartbreak. Students interested in music production mixed a single mash-up track.
Roger, a student on the Fundraiser Committee, previously belonged to Provo High’s Service Committee last year. Roger learned a Bachata to dance at rest homes as a means of service. After learning the Bachata the previous year, he also learned hip-hop and breakdancing in a separate school club. Using his background knowledge and interests, Roger developed a significant portion of the event’s choreography.
Latinos in Action is a program where students use their background knowledge as an asset to offer unique services and prepare distinctive events. More often than not, students must work together on projects introducing students to marketing and communications methods and task coordination.
Their September carwash, for example, was one event forwarded by the Fundraising and Social Committee, hosted as an inexpensive way to gather funds and offer services. Students marketed the event through social media channels and school posters, collaborating between their committees to deliver a product.
After the success of their dance performance, each committee planned for their Dia De Los Muertos event. The Fundraiser Committee discussed hosting a Horror Movie, checking if the event was plausible with current funds after the carwash. The Social Committee was preparing an interactive game to draw students to the event.
Many students are continuing a tradition from middle school or in the footsteps of their siblings.
Diego, a returning Latinos in Action student said, “Our middle school teachers organized the events– which made sense. But the difference is that we plan and prepare events now. We organize our committees. We run the events.”
Latinos in Action is a program drawing the past, present and future together for students, asking them to draw on lived experiences to draft a flexible plan for a brighter future. It’s an exceptionable program full of exceptional students. We can’t wait to see what they do next.