Student dreams were on the agenda at the November 17 meeting of the Mamaroneck School Board.
The first part of the evening celebrated student athletes and the partnership between Fields for Kids and the district to build an artificial turf field at Mamaroneck High School. (See: Turf Field is Coming to MHS)
The second part presented “two initiatives to make dreams come true for Latino students in their lives,” explained Dr. Anthony Minotti, assistant superintendent for student support services, personnel and administration. Dr. Minotti noted that Latino students make up nearly 16% of the student population in the district.
PALMS at the Hommocks
Three years ago, Hommocks Middle School Principal Seth Weitzman kicked off PALMS (Post-secondary Access for Latino Middle-Grade Students) a national program designed to encourage more Latino students to graduate high school and go on to college or other post-secondary education. Newly-hired social worker Adonis Calderon headed up the effort.
Since then, Dr. Weitzman explained, the school has worked to increase opportunities for Latino parent education and involvement. Efforts in the past year have included Latino parent meetings and coffees, and biweekly meetings of the Padres Unidos parent leadership group led by Mr. Calderon.
The school arranged a visit for Latino students to Iona College last May. In addition, all sixth graders now participate in the Kids2College program, which provides lessons on careers, college life and academic preparation.
According to Dr. Weitzman, the Hommocks staff has noticed several positive changes. Latino students seem increasingly comfortable at school, and Latino parents are interacting with staff more and making active contributions to their children’s school experience.
PATHS at the District Level
The success of the PALMS program led to the implementation of the district PATHS (Program Alignment Team for Hispanic Students) program two years ago, explained Dr. Minotti. PATHS brings together district staff from pre-K to grade 12 on a monthly basis to develop new programs for Hispanic students and their families in order to improve school performance. The PATHS committee also includes members of local organizations serving the Hispanic population, including the Hispanic Resource Center.
The PATHS committee has led to a variety of initiatives to encourage participation of Hispanic students and their families, including transition meetings for Latino students moving up to middle or high school, a special college financial aid meeting in Spanish, and active recruitment of Hispanic students by the secondary music departments.
Communication in Spanish has been a big part PATHS. Last year’s district calendar was published in Spanish as well as English, and each school has monthly meetings for Latino parents. Secondary student progress reports are now prepared in Spanish, and a district Sharepoint website has been created so that all staff have access to other district documents that have been translated.
A recently-published Spanish brochure describes the programs and services available to the Hispanic community.
Dr. Minotti noted that the ultimate goal was to provide Hispanic students and families with the tools and information to improve the educational experience and make the prospect of going to college change from an unobtainable hope to the fulfillment of a dream.
As one student put it, “It is a great experience to go college.”
Liz Liscio serves as PT Council Diversity Representative, a member of the Hispanic Resource Center board, and a PATHS committee member.