Spanish-Language Education Fair Aims For College Dreams
Thousands of parents waited in line Saturday morning for an education fair aimed at Hispanic families hosted by the Austin Independent School District.
Jennifer Reyes said she came to the Feria Para Aprender, or the Fair to Learn, to become more informed on how she can help her kindergarten daughter learn to read.
The Feria Para Aprender is a national education fair, specifically for Spanish-speaking families, to give parents information in Spanish about the school district, after-school education programs, and especially college information.
“It is very difficult indeed to navigate the complexity of not only the AISD system for education but also for college and even after college,” AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen told the fair’s crowd.
This is the sixth year AISD has partnered with Feria Para Aprender. In the past, surveys from participants showed 90 percent of the parents had children that are newborn to 10 years of age. Educators at the fair expressed the need to start talking about goals to graduate from high school and go off to college very early in a student’s life.
Diana Reyes, a teacher at Manor I.S.D and the co-coordinator for Latinas Leading Tomorrow, brought a large group of middle school girls to the fair to show them that they can and should achieve more.
“There is just so many stereotypes and some of the girls were believing in those stereotypes because that is the norm,” Reyes said.
Travis County’s Hispanic population has grown rapidly in recent years and many are children younger than 18. The Austin school district estimates sixty percent of its students are Hispanic. Susan Dawson runs E-3 Alliance, an initiative to grow an educated workforce in Austin. She told the crowd the fair’s main message is that a successful career in high school – and college – is not out of reach for Spanish-speaking families and can create pathways to a comfortable life.
“Pathways like science and engineering and technology where we predict there will be 15,000 new high paying jobs just here in Central Texas by 2018,” Dawson said.
David Cruz is on that pathway. He’s a computer science major at Texas State University in San Marcos.
“It’s hard,” Cruz said. He started his first semester at Texas State on January, 17 after studying for two years at Austin Community College. “I’m getting used to it.”
Cruz said learning English was the first obstacle. Then there was finding financial aid. Since Cruz was born in Mexico, he says it’s been difficult finding money for non-U.S. citizens. He works and still struggles to pay for classes but says it’s worth it.
“It’s really hard because you have to set an example for your brothers and your sisters, so they’re looking up to you,” Cruz said.