Patricia Gándara: Supporting Immigrant Youth in Schools

John Rogers talks to UCLA Professor Patricia Gándara

John Rogers: What conditions should be in place in our schools to support the holistic development of immigrant youth and the children of immigrant parents?

Patricia Gándara: We need schools with well-prepared bilingual personnel. Before we even get to the classroom, we need bilingual folks in the front office of schools who can welcome families in their home language and support them and help them.

We know that in many, if not most cases, people come here with the hope that their children are going to have a better life. And the only way that’s going to happen for these immigrant families is if somebody helps them understand how to work with the system.

Beyond that, we need well-prepared, bilingual teachers. Educators absolutely need to understand the cultures these students come from and the kinds of expectations that families, have learned from other places.

John Rogers: Are there other conditions that contribute to a supportive environment for children from immigrant families?

Patricia Gándara: Well, beyond the personnel in the school, Its helpful for schools to have materials that relate to these kids and their families, and that allow the families to support the children’s education in their own language. We want parents to read with their kids, so schools need to provide them books that they can do that with. We know that when we build on any language, it builds on all languages.

John Rogers: So we want young people to become powerful and fluent in more than one language?

Patricia Gándara: The goal of the state right now is for all our students to have a bilingual or multilingual education because it just makes sense for the 21st century. We have this rich repository of languages in this state that sets us up to be uniquely successful globally. But that won’t happen unless we actually provide the instruction in our schools to make it happen, because languages are lost really rapidly. And particularly when the message is sent to people who speak other languages, that their language is not important here.

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