We Need To Empower Our Multilingual Students

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending the UnidosUS conference at the San Diego Convention Center. 

One of the events I attended was the workshop: “Closing the Achievement Gap for Students of Color.” I put aside my biases regarding how “students of color” were officially identified, which was easy given that UnidosUs has been around since 1968. The original name for the organization was Southwest Council of La Raza, which was later National Council of La Raza. 

One great way to close that achievement gap is to give our students credit for what they already know. 

Speaking Spanish has been looked at like a subtractive quality in our schools since I was a kindergartener in the ‘80s labeled as an “English Second Language” student. 

We like to tell ourselves that we admire “global languages,” yet we shun our Spanish speaking students. 

Students who speak French, and students who speak Mandarin are viewed as valuable assets in the classroom. A student who speaks Spanish is tagged ESL or ELL (English Language Learner), or whatever current letters they are usings which *usually* equals “bad” and “more paperwork.”

Let us help us help ourselves and start acknowledging our Spanish speaking students as multilingual students, which is what they are. Remember what an asset a multilingual student can be to the monolingual student, especially when it comes to etymology. 

Multilingual students just have to realize how valuable their language skills are. 

We are already getting there. Middle Schools in the Sweetwater Union High School District already have programs in place which give students six years of Spanish classes, including grammar and literature. 

Let’s get us to the finish line and brag to the world about how proud we are to have multilingual students in a monolingual society. 

Speaking Spanish is an asset. Let us remember that. 

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Melissa Cota

Melissa Cota

Melissa Cota is a Freelance Writer and long time education advocate, who has worked as a Reading Coach, Tutor, and High School Teacher. She grew up attending Chula Vista schools including Kellogg Elementary, Castle Park Middle and Castle Park High. She went on to receive a Bachelor's Degree from San Diego State University and now hopes to positively affect the Chula Vista Elementary School District through involved parenting.

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