Five years ago, concerned about the problems of performance and attitude of Hispanic students in secondary public schools in Stamford, a group of South American enthusiasts proposed an education project with the goal of attracting a number of these adolescents and put at your disposal some different experiences that these schools could give them. They intended to put in the mind of those youngsters a look of their own which were not of those who have no identity, neither history nor culture nor hope.
Some time later, ALTA, which stands for Approaching Leadership Through Action., was working under the auspices of the Board of Education of Stamford. The path traveled in the following years was not simple nor had the understanding of all the communities. But the good news is that, during these years of persistent work, the ALTA program was already under the best auspices of the educational system of Stamford as well as the resolute action of a group of strongly motivated parents of the same students and with a core of teachers very focused in goals and relevant methodologies.
After this preamble, almost a chronicle, we will emphasize some aspects that we believe remain at the top in the mast of this extraordinary effort for the sake of the Hispanic community in Stamford. What was the profound reality that they started at? Basically, that of the own younger siblings, children and grandchildren of more or less recent immigrants, left in the drama of learning a culture and a language so different to their own, searching pass perhaps unnoticed or, in the best cases, regarded as persons who were not different or inferior. The diagnosis was sharp and hard to assimilate: many of those teenagers did not see themselves as people free from sanction, criticism and mockery of those who were not or did not feel different. They were feeling segregated but not as victims but somewhat guilty of this. They were so ashamed so far they did not see themselves with the minimum of love which would allow the construction of a healthy personality and at peace with the world. How could a teenager who has this tragedy in his heart look at their parents?
Who imagined this model of work called ALTA designed it to change those psychosocial mechanisms, which were making a portion of our children traumatized and even alienated creatures without identity, without an idea of their own values, without self-esteem and exposed to an indolent and even violent school experience. They had to change many things in those minds delivered to the disrespect of themselves and others, the uncontrolled behavior of groups of “equal,” the internal loneliness and the loss of its authenticity. And had to work in a way that was interesting and attractive and, at the same time, imposing a certain level of discipline-based reasoning and mutual respect.
The educational program of ALTA has two areas of work: that is, with the participation of some of the teachers of their own high schools, two afternoons a week, after regular classes, to give incorporated students the opportunity to supplement, complement and reinforce the learning developed in the school; and that the program performs on Saturday between 9 am and 1 pm on the premises of Yerwood Center and with the participation of this institution, where a group of counselors, teachers and instructors provide to the same students a very broad and diverse educational curriculum ranging from Latin dance, sports and the guidance for those who want to go to College up to a fine work of awareness-raising and empowerment for young immigrants move in the formation of their own personalities, free of self-destructive feelings or anti-social attitudes, geared towards the self-worth and the recognition of themselves and others as proactive participants in a global community.
Apart from this, one of every four Saturday meetings is carried out with the participation of the parents of the students. This has allowed that many parents and their children are heard each other on some general aspects of their relationship, and therefore they see the need to deepen the dialogue in their homes, leaving aside barriers that hindered. This experience has strengthened communication and family affection goals of ALTA and led to the interest of these parents in other training activities and outreach of the program. A set of culturally important activities has been proposed and organized by these parents through a Committee specifically formed to do so, contributing to the purposes of discharge in a very efficient way.
The results of this combination of factors and participants are amazing. There are a number of testimonies given by promoters, teachers, parents and students about the achievements of ALTA in these five years of consolidation and growth. But the theme will be subject of a future article.