Migrant Student Opportunity to Dream
Student Board Member, Margarita Amezcua, presented to the State Board of Education last week on her experience with migrant and bilingual education in Washington. You can view/listen to her whole presentation on YouTube. Margarita highlighted a group at her school dedicated to supporting students called Hope Squad, a national suicide prevention organization. She also showcased her work as part of the Association of Washington Student Leaders (AWSL) and the group's 2020 platform advocating for student mental health support and more security in schools.
The focus of her presentation was the current state of migrant and bilingual education policy and the experience of her peers at school. She cited recent supportive measures like House Bill 1079 (which allows eligible undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at Washington colleges and universities) and the Real Hope Act which allows undocumented students to apply for college aid, with a similar form to the FAFSA. Former Board Member, Ricardo Sanchez, was instrumental in the passage of these pieces of legislation.
Margarita discussed English Language Learners and migrant and bilingual education in her application presentation to sit on the Board. She has also toured ESL classrooms in different age-groups and spoke to her experience representing students who are not always heard.
"I know how to advocate for myself because of my homelife, but seeing students who might not have the privilege of having their parents at home...having to take up another job, having to take care of their siblings," said Margarita. "I've heard stories upon stories."
Margarita reported that in conversations with migrant and bilingual students, they expressed feeling "isolated, lonely, terrified, and humiliated" when they were in school and asked to communicate with peers and educators. She also asked students what they need to feel supported, and responses included "patience, empathy, one-on-one communication, hope, encouragement, and inspiration."
"They need to see someone in their classroom that has succeeded, some of them just see struggle after struggle. We need to give them something that creates hope...that makes them grow in to something. This needs to be more than a story on a slide," Margarita added. "Imagine being in a classroom and automatically, just because you don't know how to explain yourself, you don't know how to elaborate on what you're feeling or what you've been through, you're automatically looked at as inferior."
Following her presentation, Board Members were appreciative of Margarita's passion and dedication to student voice.
"You help remind us that we can talk policy, but this is what matters. These students are what matters," said Board Member and Vice Chair, MJ Bolt.
"We need that connection to community resources...where do we find those one-on-one, community connections that can help some of these students when the capacity within the school [is limited]," said new Member and Private Schools Representative, Jan Brown.
"I was touched, but I was also convicted as a teacher and a policy-maker," said educator and Member, Holly Koon. "What can I do differently? I think about students I have...that are learning English in my biology class."