Sunday, October 29, 2006

Schools aim to break language barrier

This education director understands how hard it is for immigrants to become proficient in English and how important it is. DP

By Nicole Geary, Lansing State Journal Sergio Keck came to the United States from Argentina when he was 14.

He didn't want to leave his friends, to learn another language, to start fresh.

More than 20 years later, he's using that understanding to build new programs and awareness as the Lansing School District's bilingual education director.

He was a teacher and principal before taking the job just last school year.

"Research says they can learn English in two years," Keck said of young immigrants. "But to express themselves in academic English, it takes about seven years. We need to make sure they can read and especially write at a proficient level."

Serving Spanish-speaking students is important not only for their success, but for the district's.
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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Increasingly, libraries are the place to learn English

Libraries all across the country are holding ESL classes. DP

By Will Kilburn, Globe Correspondent The 8 p.m. intermediate English as a Second Language class at Milford Town Library is often about subtleties. When it comes to keys, are they at your pocket or in your pocket? Do you taxi at the airport, from the airport, or to the airport?

Instructor Vijay Magpal quizzes the students, gesturing at a whiteboard set up at the open end of a horseshoe of desks.

The 15 students, who range in age from young adult to retired and are from Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Peru, Russia, and Venezuela, answer sometimes in unison, and other times only after being called on by the smiling Magpal.

After one student stumbles, she tells him, ``You'll get used to it, don't worry."

The class is one of four per week (two for beginners and two for intermediates) offered by the library, which also matches students with tutors for one-to-one instruction and provides learning materials and meeting space for both classes and tutoring sessions.

The Milford library is one of many libraries around Boston's western suburbs and the country that have taken on a new mission -- teaching immigrants English.
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Finding a new voice

This story illustrates how immigrants want to learn English, but often aren't able to and are afraid to try the little they do know for fear of being wrong. DP

By Jennifer Clampet, The Times The feeling of being watched in public keeps Dina Martinez, of Tualatin, and Edith Sanchez, of Tigard, quiet most of the time.

They’re afraid of making a mistake. They’re afraid of the arched eyebrows or the grumbles that follow when they begin to speak and their Spanish accents are exposed.

“When I talk, I’m never sure whether I’m saying the correct sentence – always not sure,” Martinez said.

Martinez seldom leaves her apartment. The stay-at-home mother of two doesn’t like to venture out into the world. She waits for her husband to come home from work, and they go grocery shopping together.

A call from a stranger at Sanchez’s house is answered by her daughter. Yes, her mother is home, the pre-teen says, but no she can’t come to the phone. Her mother doesn’t speak English.
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Translator teaches students tolerance

This translator understands how hard it is to learn English and helps patients in hospitals communicate with doctors and nurses. DP

By BRENDAN deROODE WEST, Evening Sun Reporter To Francy Zepeda, different cultures are the lifeblood of the United States.

To ask people to forget their cultures and blend in would be like asking them to give up their souls, she said.

Zepeda, a translator at Gettysburg Hospital, spoke to seventh- and eighth-grade students at Emory H. Markle Intermediate School last week about communication.

Born in Puerto Rico, Zepeda moved to the mainland when she was 10. And when she was 16. And then again when she was 23.

"That time, I stayed," she told the class.

She went back to Puerto Rico the first two times because she couldn't communicate with anyone in the United States, she said.

Communication is her passion, and eventually led her to teach herself English over five years.

"I didn't have anyone to tell me what my teacher wanted me to do," she said of going to school the first time. "I didn't have anyone to talk to."

The second time, she worked with her brother picking oranges in Florida, something she calls "one of the worst jobs to have."

When she came back again, it was with her first husband. The two eventually settled in Biglerville, where her husband found work. But that left Zepeda with no one to talk to during the day.

"I was trapped," she said. "When you want to learn so badly, you put more attention into it."

She turned that attention toward teaching herself through daytime TV – specifically Oprah.
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Chinese families flock to Montville, CT

Many people think all our immigrants are Latino, this town has many Chinese immigrants. DP

By DANIEL AXELROD , Norwich Bulletin Montville High School senior Cheng Fan said his father enjoys working as a cook at Mohegan Sun.

But Fan's mother regrets immigrating to the United States because she went from teaching middle school in China to working in a Chinese restaurant.

"If I go to Cornell University for college, that regret may disappear," said Fan, 17, of Montville, who wants to study transportation engineering at the Ivy League school.

Driven by a wave of Chinese immigrant parents moving to Montville to create more opportunities for their children, the number of Chinese students learning English in the school district has soared during the last six years.

Montville school administrators said state officials soon will designate the high school a Chinese bilingual school, formally mandating the school's existing bilingual educational services for its 35 Chinese English Language Learners.

District-wide, just four Chinese ELL students attended Montville schools during 2000, compared to 108 today.
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Sunday, October 15, 2006

English will always be the language of the U.S.

by Donna Poisl

Our citizens who think English will disappear in our own country are worrying over nothing. People who want to pass laws making it our "official language" are wasting time and effort. I read recently that someone called the United States a "language graveyard". People from all countries with more than 300 languages come here and in a couple generations have lost all languages except English.

English will always be the main language in this country, regardless of how many people complain about having to choose English or Spanish on the telephone or how many signs they see in Spanish or other languages. The most common argument to this statement is that there are so many Latinos here now who don’t speak English that they will simply outnumber English speakers and English will be lost. This may make sense to these worriers, but there is no study that backs it up. Latinos are losing their language at exactly the same pace as all immigrants before them lost theirs.

All studies prove that by the second generation, immigrants are fluent in English while using their native language at home. By the third generation, they have almost all lost their native language and only speak English. This means that grandchildren usually are not able to have a conversation with their grandparents.

This is what has always happened in this country. Germans, Polish, Italians, Asians - all did the same thing. The first generation struggled and learned a little bit of English, their children spoke both languages and their grandchildren spoke only English.

Of the more than 300 languages spoken in this country, English is the language that unites us. It is the language needed to get ahead. It is the language needed to get a good education, to get a good job, to live up to our full potential. Many of these 300 languages will be extinct in 100 years, English won't be.

About 15 years ago, I was sitting in a hotel restaurant in Taipei, Taiwan, eating breakfast. There were three businessmen sitting at the next table going over a contract to purchase and ship greenhouse cactus plants. One man was German, one was Taiwanese and the other was Italian. They were using English as their common language.

None of them spoke English very well and all had heavy accents. They were having a very hard time understanding each other through these individual accents. I could understand all of them quite well. I offered to help them, but they politely refused my help.

English is used all over the world, often, as with these men, as the only common language. School children everywhere learn English. They may not be fluent in it, but they are familiar with it and can function in it if necessary.

The reason there are language choices on telephone messages and signs in Spanish at banks and offices is because businesses have decided to serve these immigrants in their own language. It helps their business serve a group of people with enormous purchasing power. It is simply a business decision.

In some ways it is doing Latino immigrants a disservice, because it makes it almost unnecessary for them to learn English. They can get by in most situations in Spanish. But they will not be able to help their children get a good education, they won't be able to get better jobs, they will have great difficulty if they ever have an emergency and need medical or police assistance. They will always be held back by the language barrier.

Instead of complaining about people not learning English fast enough, I think my fellow citizens should try to help immigrants learn English. Instead of being upset that they are taking longer in line at the store, we can offer to help them understand the question or make change. In the lunch room at work, we can trade words and phrases in our language with coworkers in their language and we will all learn. Some people seem to think that in order to teach, we have to be trained teachers, but we can teach and learn every day.

Most ESL classes in the country have long waiting lists of people wanting to learn English. Many times the classes are at inconvenient times or places for the students. Many immigrants work two jobs and long hours and are unable to attend classes. They will appreciate and benefit from any help we can give them individually.

It is incredibly hard to learn a new language as an adult. Adult brains are not as pliable and willing to think in another language as the brains of children are. It takes slow, patient repeating of words and constant practice. It requires a lot of nerve to take a chance, speak up and possibly be wrong, misunderstood or ridiculed. It requires a partner to practice with who doesn’t laugh at mistakes.

English has never been seriously threatened as the dominant language of the United States, the languages that immigrants bring with them to the U.S. are endangered. It is not necessary to try to make English the official language. It won't make any difference.

Heritage language schools help bind the families of immigrants

These kids go to weekend school to learn their grandparents' languages. Some even go to Chinese school on Sat. and Japanese on Sun. English has taken over and they have to be taught the other languages in special classes. Parents are studying too, since they have lost the language of their parents. DP

By EVELYN SHIH, STAFF WRITER "You all have a lot of work to do this year," Carol Young said to seventh- and eighth-graders sitting in a computer room at Hackensack Middle School. "You've only learned 800 characters so far, and until you learn 1,500 you are technically illiterate."

Seventeen pairs of eyes widened.

"But Laoshi," protested one student, addressing her in Chinese. "What if we learn 1,501 characters and then forget two? Are we still illiterate?"

Young hesitated, but gave it to them straight. "Yes, that's what it means," she said firmly. "So can anybody tell me how many characters do you have to learn each day?"

Groans filled the room.

The Bergen Chinese School, which convenes for four hours every Sunday afternoon at the middle school, is a fixture in Bergen County's Taiwanese-American community, and instructors like Young have a vital mission: They must teach the second and third generations how to communicate with the first.
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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Illegal immigrants released from jail, due to lack of space

This proves what many say: we can't round up all the illegal immigrants, we aren't equipped to detain them. Even 12 was too many here. DP A dozen illegal immigrants busted on Interstate 95 in Florence County Thursday night have been released. That's because Charleston County jail officials say they had nowhere to put them.

Thursday night, deputies stopped a pick up truck where I-95 and I-20 connect in Florence County for a minor traffic violation. Inside, deputies say they arrested 13 illegal immigrants in that truck.

Police say the driver had cocaine and he's still in jail in Florence County. The 12 others were taken to the Charleston County jail by agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. The Public Information Officer for the Charleston County Detention Center, Captain John Clark, said that they had no choice but to let the men go because they already had 115 other people to book and didn't have the time to adequately take care of the immigrants.

Clark says he does not know what happened to the illegal immigrants once they left his detention center. Officials with ICE would not comment because this is an on-going investigation. Wednesday night, Florence County deputies arrested nine illegal immigrants, so that's a total of 22 in just two days.

Immigrants' work risky

Another story about immigrants taking jobs most citizens won't take. DP

Homicide is main cause of on-the-job deaths for foreign-born staff

By Stephen Franklin and Darnell Little, Chicago Tribune CHICAGO - Blood seeped from his hands and face. His skin burned from the knife that slashed at him from the cab's backseat. He thought he was dying just like his friend whose throat was cut by a robber in his cab late one night.

Grabbing the long, serrated blade of the attacker's knife shredded his hand but saved his life.

"If I didn't hold the knife, I think he would have cut my throat,'' Mahmood Ishaque said as he recalls the attack that took place more than a year and half ago but seems as frighteningly fresh as yesterday to him.

The No. 1 cause of death on the job for foreign-born workers is homicide, and most victims are clerks at gasoline stations and food stores or cabdrivers like Mahmood Ishaque. They are immigrants doing dangerous work that others won't.

A Chicago Tribune analysis shows that in 2005, when foreign-born workers made up 15 percent of the nation's work force, 188 were murdered on the job; that's a third of the 564 workplace homicide victims, the highest ratio since the government began keeping track in 1992. Last year, U.S. grocery stores recorded 76 murders, more than any other industry, government figures show.

Much of this loss of life can be avoided with measures that are both well-known and not costly, experts say. But protecting cabdrivers and store clerks hasn't been as big a priority as saving lives on the factory floor, they add.
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Judge Upholds In-State Tuition For Illegal Immigrants SAN DIEGO -- A judge has upheld a state law allowing public colleges and universities to charge in-state fees to undocumented immigrants.

The law was challenged by a class action lawsuit filed last December on behalf of out-of-state students who claimed the tuition break discriminated against U.S. citizens.

Out-of-state students pay higher rates than California residents in the state's three-tiered higher education system -- the University of California, the California State University and California community colleges. In the past, immigrants who didn't have legal status as California residents faced out-of-state rates.

But a 2001 law allows nonresidents to pay in-state fees if they attended a California high school for at least three years and graduated from a California high school.

Immigrants who are in the state illegally who apply for the tuition break must certify they are in the process of getting documentation or will do so as soon as they are eligible.

Among other things, plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued the law violates federal immigration reform legislation passed in 1996.

But Superior Court Judge Thomas Warriner ruled last week there was no indication Congress intended the Immigration and Naturalization Act or any other federal statute cited by the plaintiffs to determine resident tuition rates at state universities and community colleges.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said they will appeal the ruling.

Somali Stories

Somali refugees are rebuilding their lives in Buffalo. Four agencies are helping them get settled. DP

By Peter Koch Here in Buffalo, however, more than 1,000 Somali refugees are rebuilding their lives from the ashes of lifelong strife and civil war. Like many immigrants before them, they came here with nothing but their culture and customs, and a hope for a better life. But now, thanks to the help of resettlement agencies, local activists, their own community organizations and a collective mental toughness, their star is rising again here in the Queen City.

There are four resettlement agencies locally helping new refugees—like the Somalis—adjust to their new home in Buffalo: Catholic Charities, the International Institute, Jewish Family Services and Journey’s End. Together they make up the Western New York Refugee and Asylee Consortium (WNYRAC), and they resettle around 1,000 refugees a year in Buffalo. Though they are on the front lines of resettlement, they are usually the behind-the-scenes people, working, for the most part, out of the community eye. They pick up new refugees from the airport, provide them with housing, clothing, transportation, money for groceries, cultural orientation, transportation and language lessons. They help new refugees access health services, schools, daycare and social services, and help them find jobs. From the beginning, they place a constant, steady hand on the shoulder of each refugee.

“A mad frenzy of activity,” is what Pam Kefi, executive director of the International Institute, calls the beginning of the resettlement process. “Refugees aren’t coming here because they’ve been dying to come to America. Other immigrants will make plans and pave the way for themselves to come, because they know this is where they’d like to move. Or they come here because they have some tie to the community, like a job or family members. But refugees come under a great amount of duress, and it’s their only option.”
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Learning the language of the workplace

This is better than ESL or at least different. It teaches workers job specific English words, technical terms and occupational words not usually learned in an ESL class. DP

By H.J. Cummins, Star Tribune After nine years at Mackay Envelope Corp., Teng Yang still wasn't clear when he picked up a job ticket exactly which duties were his.

"Every word I didn't understand, I went and asked the supervisor," said Yang, a Hmong immigrant who left Laos 15 years ago.

That extra step was just the kind of thing to cause tension between machine operators, such as Yang, and the rest of the work crew, said Scott Mitchell, CEO at the Minneapolis-based envelope maker.

But Yang has been self-reliant since June, after finishing some "occupational English" courses arranged by Mackay.

Everything is better now, Yang and Mitchell agreed.

Job-specific English courses are spreading throughout Minnesota workplaces as the state's workforce becomes more diverse.

Employers know that misunderstandings, in the literal sense, cost them money. Immigrants and refugees know that poor English makes them hard to hire and even harder to promote. And there's nothing more motivating than the ability to make a living, instructors say.
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Green proposes tax credit for immigrants to learn English

An interesting proposal. DP MADISON, Wis. Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Green says immigrants who come to Wisconsin legally should be given help to make a smooth transition, while those here illegally should not get any benefits.

Green says if elected governor he would propose a 300-dollar tax credit to cover the costs of English classes and expenses occurred during the process an immigrant goes through to become a citizen.

There was no immediate cost estimate for the plan Green unveiled today in Milwaukee.

Green also reiterated his opposition to granting in-state tuition to illegal residents and support for requiring anyone applying for public assistance to show proof of citizenship.

Immigration has become more of an issue in the governor's race in the past week, with both Green and Governor Jim Doyle releasing television ads attacking the other on the topic.


This story tells about the Hispanic middle class. These immigrants are setting up organizations to help the low-wage immigrants here. DP

By Steve Jones, The Sun News Alex Russell didn't really know any Mexicans until a new job in South Carolina brought him into regular contact with immigrants.

"They are very noble people," Russell said.

Alex and Susana Russell are themselves Hispanic immigrants - natives of Argentina who lived in Venezuela for more than 20 years. They moved to the state five years ago.

They represent part of a growing Hispanic middle class in the United States, a segment of the population some say can help Americans understand and appreciate the wave of immigration that has captured the attention of lawmakers, the public and the media.

The Hispanic populations in the Carolinas are among the top four fastest growing in the country, according to research by the Pew Hispanic Center. The current debate over illegal immigration, how to stop it and what to do about those already in the country is driven by fear, said Maria DeGuzman, director of Latina/Latino Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill's College of Arts and Sciences. She believes the fear is unfounded.
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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Language shift seen in Latinos

Another personal story proving the studies that show English becomes the only language by the third generation in this country. DP

By GINA VERGEL, STAFF WRITER WOODBRIDGE — Fords Middle School pupil Cathy Ortiz is part Puerto Rican, but she said English is the dominant language spoken at her house.

"We really don't speak Spanish unless we're going to our abuela's house," said Ortiz, referring to her paternal grandmother, who came to the United States from Puerto Rico many years ago.

The Ortizes are a prime example of a trend that a new study says most second- and third-generation Latinos are falling into — one in which the use of Spanish is dying out.

A few generations after families move to the United States from Latin American countries, fluency in Spanish dies out and English becomes the dominant language, says the new study, which was published by sociology professors from New Jersey and California.

The study counters popular arguments that the size of Latino immigration to the U.S. could create a bilingual society and a fundamental change in American culture.

Such sentiments have played a role in debates over U.S. immigration law and touched off a controversy earlier this year over a Spanish-language version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Closer to home, controversy ensued after an effort by Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan to make English the official language of the Bergen County borough.
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English-only debate: The law is bad for business

An excellent piece telling everyone that English-only law is bad for the country. DP

By SANDRA SANCHEZ, GUEST COLUMNIST I am thankful to this country, for it opened its doors to me and my family 15 years ago. An immigrant citizen from Mexico, I strongly opposed Iowa's "English-only" law.

Being born outside the United States gives me a different perspective, whether consciously or not, on some issues than many Iowans may have. I've been exposed to very diverse peoples all my life - in Mexico due to my parents' jobs and in Iowa due to my own job. For me, differences in language and culture solely represent an easy opening for a fascinating conversation.

The "English-only" law has meant nothing positive for the state or its residents. After its approval, there was an immediate increase in the number of people reporting national-origin discrimination instances at my office. It takes time and resources from both governmental and private agencies to address them. Also, funds to teach adults English as a second language are shrinking every year.

Recently, Honda announced plans to open a new plant somewhere in the Midwest. Ohio had an "English-only" bill on the table. "We want to make sure we're not creating barriers for those types of situations ... if you have families coming from another country, in terms of management or the like, you want to make sure there are no unintended consequences for those families," said House Speaker Jon A. Husted after the vote that killed the bill.

Most people seem to ignore the hard facts, but big businesses don't. A few years ago, I asked a high-level executive from Pioneer Hi-Bred whether English is the language of international business. He said, "The business language is that of my clients, whatever it is!" Supporters of "English only" believe it has no practical impact. Losing business and opportunities for growth have practical and negative impacts, which are often more expensive than the costs associated with dealing with different languages.
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Sunday, October 08, 2006

U.S. Latinos lose Spanish over time, study finds

Another story that disproves the theory of some people who insist English will be lost here and this will become a Spanish speaking country. DP

Yvonne Wingett and Matt Dempsey, The Arizona Republic Jessica Olguin dances salsa and cumbia. She belongs to a Latino-based club at Phoenix College, and most of her friends are Hispanic.

But the 19-year-old Latina doesn't speak Spanish.

"I've even taken Spanish classes to learn," the central Phoenix student said. "It kind of seems like I'm not taking a part of my past, my ancestry with me because my parents didn't teach it to me."

Hispanics such as Olguin are quickly losing Spanish with each generation in the United States, according to a new study, and the grandchildren of immigrants are likely to speak only English. By the third generation, only 17 percent of Hispanics speak Spanish fluently, and by the fourth generation, it drops to 5 percent.

The study challenges the perception that Hispanics resist learning English and that heavy immigration from Spanish-speaking countries threatens the American identity.
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Lack of English skills handcuffs immigrants

This story gives statistics about immigrants and their opportunities related to their knowledge of English. There are long waiting lists for ESL classes. DP

ESL funding, space hard to come by

By Lisa Eckelbecker, TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF WORCESTER— English language skills mark a new economic dividing line between immigrants, but organizations are straining to find enough money and space to expand English classes for foreign-born people living in Central Massachusetts, community leaders said yesterday.

As many as 4,000 to 5,000 immigrants in Worcester may be on waiting lists for English as a Second Language classes, even as hundreds more cram into courses at community centers and colleges, local officials said at a presentation at the Beechwood Hotel on “The Changing Face of Massachusetts” by MassINC, a Boston-based think tank.

“We have to eliminate these waiting lists for ESL to make any dent in this issue,” said Donald H. Anderson, director of Workforce Central Career Center, which has three employment centers in the region.

The dividing line between immigrants who speak and read English and those who do not matters, because native-born residents have been leaving the state and immigrants compose a growing part of the Massachusetts population and economy.

By 2004, immigrants represented 14.3 percent of the state population, up from 9.5 percent in 1990, according to MassINC. Sometime before the end of this year, the number of immigrants in the state should hit 1 million, said MassINC Research Director Dana Ansel.

“This we haven’t seen since the early 1900s,” she said.
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County joins with Mexico to teach immigrants about health care

Another case where the Mexican government is helping their people who live in the U.S. DP

By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER, SENTINEL STAFF WRITER Diabetes screenings, blood pressure readings and a dance contest are just some of the events planned for Santa Cruz County's first Binational Health Week next week.

Sponsored jointly by the Mexican and United States governments, the program aims to help immigrants detect and prevent disease.

"Walls might be built on our common border, but still we have responsibilities toward the migrants," Bruno Figueroa, the Mexican consul general based in San Jose, said during Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting.

In previous years, Binational Health Week has been held the second week in October around California, the United States and Mexico. During that week, federal, state and local governments sponsor programs on disease prevention and living healthy as a Mexican immigrant in the United States. Participants in the Santa Cruz County event can test for diseases, enroll in low-cost or free health services, listen to health seminars and learn more about how the American emergency medical system works.

One health fair will be held near the Watsonville Farmers Market on Friday, Oct. 13, at Main and Peck streets, so shoppers can stop by and learn more about their health, too.
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Mexico helps teach Spanish

The Mexican government is helping fund this program to teach N.C. immigrants their native language. Then these people will be able to learn English easier. Hopefully that government can put more money into their own schools, so there are not so many illiterates there. DP

By GIL KLEIN and SERGIO QUINTANA, Media General News Service DURHAM, N.C. - The immigrants from Mexico and El Salvador crowded around their teacher at St. Paul Methodist Church as she taught some basics of how to read and write.

But the eight adults weren't learning English, the language of their adopted country. They were learning Spanish, the language of the countries they left behind.

And they were learning it with the help of the Mexican government, which supplied the textbooks, helped train the teacher and provided a $15,000 grant to support the program.

"We start with the alphabet where we get students who don't know anything at all about how to read or write," said Francisca Fragoso, the teacher. "In many cases, they only know how to write their names because they know how to copy it from a piece of paper they carry around."
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Hispanics bring world of diversity to the city

There are at least 21 countries represented in the Hispanic community in Corpus Christi, more than half are from Mexico. All are adding to the flavor of this area. DP

By Mike Baird, Caller Times No matter the country, the culture of many Coastal Bend residents of Hispanic origin is ingrained through support of the family and the celebration of common cultural links passed to new generations, said Cuban-born Evaristo Tercilla, 80.

The son of a chocolate factory owner from Santiago, Cuba, first brought his architectural skills to Cleveland in 1964 so his family could know freedom. His employer offered Tercilla a job in Corpus Christi, then he later worked for the City of Corpus Christi for more than 20 years as a wastewater superintendent. Tercilla knew it was important to show others how immigration shaped the way of life of people in the Coastal Bend.

Now, many local people with ties to different Latin countries credit him as founder/president of Instituto de Cultura Hispanica de Corpus Christi. Tercilla says there were five families who first met in their homes, developed bylaws, and sparked the organization on Oct. 12, 1976, to help identify the diversity of Hispanic culture in this city.

"Many people thought if you spoke Spanish you were from Mexico," Tercilla said. "A community is as strong as the variety of its people."
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