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Professor Manuel Hernández
Essays Collection

Address: : 2012 Ernest St. Kissimmee, Florida 34741

Manuel Hernandez was born in Sleepy Hollow, New York in 1963. He completed undergraduate studies at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus and finished a Master�s in Education from Herbert H. Lehman College (CUNY) in the Bronx in 1994. He has coordinated symposiums, produced and coordinated television interviews on the literature written by Puerto Rican and Latino/a writers from the Diaspora. He has done numerous presentations, workshops and seminars on how to integrate latino/a literature in the English classroom. In 2014, he participated in a TedxTalk (Connections) at Southern New Hampshire University. He is the author of three books, , Latino/a Literature in the English Classroom (Editorial Plaza Mayor, 2003), The Birth of a Rican (Imprenta Sifre. 2008) and Living the Kingdom with purpose (Imprenta Sifre, 2013). He is a Language Arts teacher at Osceola School District in Florida.

Focusing on the Needs of Latino Students
By Manuel Hernandez-Carmona copyright

The United States needs to focus on the needs of Latino students. President Barack Obama said in a CNN article on March 28th that, "Our workforce is going to be more diverse; it is going to be, to a large percentage, Latino. And if our young people are not getting the kind of education they need, we won't succeed as a nation." The commander-in-chief recognized that the success of America's workforce is intrinsically related to the advancement of the education of Latinos. As the largest minority in America continues to grow, the academic needs of Latino students become an integral element of education in America.

Despite the fact that Hispanic/Latinos have recently made some major gains, disparities still exist in academic performance between Hispanic/Latinos and non-Hispanic/Latino White students. It is counterproductive to ask a recent arrived Latino teen to adapt and adjust immediately to an educational system as competitive as the one in our country . Many of the foreign born Latino students have very little education, if any, in their academic formation. Then again, others come from countries where education is reserved for the middle and upper classes of society. When they come to America, the expectations are diverse, and education takes the backdoor in a society as financially demanding as ours.

Focusing on the needs of Latino students is what America should have done decades ago, but today we are at a crossroads and not even tension in the Middle East and natural disasters in Japan can take away from a delayed understanding of a reality: education in America must be receptive of culturally relevant strategies that enable academic excellence and foster the academic development of Latino children. Because the Latino dropout rate continues to surge in the vast majority of metropolitan cities in America, the outreach of education is diminished and drugs, crime, violence and teenage pregnancy are just four of the many situations that Latino children are exposed to.

The United States Department of Education needs to prepare a concrete and specific vision where all the needs of Latino children are accounted for. How about exposing a recently arrived seventeen year Cuban boy to Romeo and Juliet in his first day of school in America? The universality of Shakespeare's classic is unquestionable, yet it is going to take more than a highly qualified teacher to get him listening/speaking, reading and writing about the star-crossed lovers. Why not start the newly arrived teen with short, simple narratives in English written by Cuban American writer Cristina Garcia to get him interested first, and then in a step by step process lure the student to the American and British classics? This is a bridge to the classics! President Obama has taken the first step, but it will take educators like you and me to bury egos and create an educational vision for the Latino student population. On April 5th-7th, I will be at a conference in Milwaukee titled, "Graduating Latino Students" , and I am hopeful that I will not be the only one to take notice of the President's declaration. Lone Rangers like Jaime A. Escalante did a whole lot, and we owe them so much, but it is time for a team of Latino leaders in education to meet, work and develop a plan. The President said the word, now it is up to us. Count me in!