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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.

Voices in the Wind
Por Manuel Hernandez

Last month, my cousin’s daughter was on the verge of dropping out of high school. Angela called me up and asked that I talk to my precious teen niece. Gloria was thinking of quitting school just four months before her 2003 high school graduation. My cousin Angela and I grew up together in New York’s El Barrio in the late 1960’s. She married Felipe, a recently arrived puertorriqueño and moved to The Island in 1980. Months after Gloria was born, they moved back to New York looking for job opportunities and a better way of life. Seventeen years later, Gloria had turned into a lavishing hazel-eyed brunette. She had already eloped for a weekend once before with her boyfriend, Steve, and Angela feared the worst. Gloria started skipping classes to see Steven, a sign that she was at danger.

On the other hand, Gloria worked at night to help out Angela with the bills, and she often did not wake up in time for her first period class. Falling behind lead her to miss more classes. Her mother, Angela was on the edge. Her relationship with Felipe was disastrous, and Gloria witnessed the daily shouting and verbal outbreaks between her parents.
While driving to the Spanish Harlem Projects, I reflected on my cousin’s situation. My niece was not alone in her dilemma. According to statistics from the Department of Education, 37% of all Latinos dropout of high school compared to 15% of African Americans and Caucasians. This was not the first time Gloria and I spoke about her problems with school. As the ESL teacher in the family, I was often called upon to share my words of wisdom with my beautiful niece.

I was working on a special educational-technological program to improve educational outcomes, and to provide the preparation and encouragement needed for minority students to enter, and succeed, in college. The program was designed with specific strategies and skills to prepare these students for the State High School Exams. The project was a strategy to support Latino teens to have the opportunity that by grace has been granted to us all, a higher education. The project proposed to join forces (Internet, Telecommunications, Long-Distance Education and the Department of Education) with communications and technology to achieve the purpose as stated above. I wanted to share my dream program with Angela and Gloria, but it needed polishing and revision. I was very enthusiastic about the program, but Gloria was a bit too late to benefit from it. She was at risk of earning lower earnings and working in menial jobs. Besides, her beauty could turn her into a target for potential predators in all walks of life.
Almost 40 percent of Hispanic children are raised in families that are below the poverty line, a rate twice as high as that of Caucasian children. Language proficiency is a problem. Many immigrants in the United States are illiterate in Spanish, which makes learning English a monumental task. Gloria entered school speaking only Spanish and had to learn to speak and read English.

How do we even try to solve this problem? First, Latino parents must acknowledge the importance of reading and writing. Second, Parents must begin by reading to kids at an early age.Third, parents must get involved in their children’s education. Latino parents find themselves working around the clock and with very little time to visit school and demand changes. There is no easy solution. It is a process, but we must be specific and spear-headed about ways in which to improve academic standards for Latinos. Standards that need to be enhanced with vision and knowledge on how to improve interest in reading and writing.
Sociologists predict that by the year 2050 half of the United States population will be Latino. These are huge numbers, but they do not mean anything in mainstream America. Education is the key to the salvation of Latinos. The Latino high school dropout rate is a national crisis which must be viewed as serious by the Latino community. Macbeth’s “tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow” is our today. Gloria is just a voice in the wind.