District and school leaders, teachers and more than 100 Latino junior high and high school students from local schools gathered at the school Wednesday, November 14 for a forum on Latino achievement. Participants hope to boost the academic success of Latino students and someday help to close the achievement gap.
“It came out of a desire to improve academic achievement and see if we can do a better job with our students,” MVLA Union High School District Superintendent Barry Groves said. “The purpose [was] really to listen to students, to find out what’s making them successful and what barriers getting in their way of being successful.”
The 7th to 12th graders who participated were chosen by counselors at the seven schools. Students were from LAHS, Mountain View High School, Alta Vista High School, Crittenden Middle School, Graham Middle School, Egan Junior High School and Black Junior High School.
The morning began in the Eagle Theatre with a series of six speakers, including Foothill College President Judy Minor and Mountain View Police Chief Scott Vermeer.
Most of the speakers were Latino and spoke of their backgrounds, their own experiences and the importance of education.
Students were then divided into small groups for discussions in the cafeteria, staff lounge, Tutorial Center and library. There were a total of 14 groups, each with 6 to 8 students and 2 to 3 facilitators. The groups conducted discussions in either English or Spanish.
The facilitators, mostly staff volunteers from the participating schools, lead the discussions using a list of questions written by organizers of the forum. For example, one question was “What can we do to improve your learning?”
Students chimed into the talks with suggestions and explanations of their experiences at home and at school. Their responses were then typed onto laptops.
“The most important part was listening to students, and we’re going to go back … and process that information and see how we can make our schools more successful for Latino students,” Groves said after the discussion.
After 45 minutes of discussion, participants moved back into the Eagle Theatre to listen to a panel of five current and former MVLA students. The panelists, including bookkeeper Nadia Ruelas, ‘96, and Latin Student Union President senior Rosita Mancilla, answered questions about their experiences as Latinos.
At 12:15 p.m., students were released to attend afternoon classes after a provided lunch.
Following the forum, staff met to review the feedback and discuss its incorporation into instructional practices.