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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.

Knowledge and Education: Keys to Latino Salvation

by Manuel Hernández

When I attended grade school at Winfield L. Morse in Tarrytown,
New York, my teachers, Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Parker, Mrs. Biazzo and Mrs.
Russo emphasized and stressed the importance of education. As a typical
American boy, I learned to read and love the classics at a very young
age. Tarrytown, today called Sleepy Hollow, is small but rich in history
and pride. It is known for the setting of Washington Irving’s legendary
Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. Tarrytown’s junior high school bore
the name of the influential American writer, and its high school is
named after the legendary headless horseman. In terms of language, I
spoke English at school, but Spanish was the primary language in my
house and at church. I lived in a household where two cultures and
languages became one. There was no fuss or discussion about when to use
English or Spanish. It was natural for me to speak English with my
friends and Spanish with my family. I was just another typical American
boy who spoke in two languages. My family, teachers, school and Pastor
Louie were instrumental in my up-bringing and education. They made sure
I did not perish because of lack of knowledge.

In Erika Robles last week’s article on, she
states that “Education is the only way to succeed in a competitive
country like the United States of America.” This is a blunt reality and
a cold truth. The sudden and unexpected growth of the United States
Latino population brings forth interesting yet unanswered questions. How
will the present and future governments address the educational crisis
in the Latino community? When will we Latino leaders unite as one to
create a public educational policy to present to both major American
parties? What specific projects and proposals will be created to empower
American Latinos to face critical social, economic and educational
issues? The importance of education is often underminded by Latinos and
those who have the power to attend the current high school drop out rate.
For Latinos and everyone in America, education and knowledge are the
key to salvation.

In crime, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, drugs and other
areas, Latinos have high marks. The turn around and restoration must
come within the Latino community. In order to sustain themselves and
help out at home, many Latinos teens enter the workforce at a very young
age and do not continue higher education studies. Two of my students at
Monroe High School, Julio and Judith, left their household during their
last semester in school, attended classes during the day and worked
from 11:00 pm to 7:00 am to pay for rent, bills and food. Thanks to
support by teachers and friends, they graduated from high school. This
is the story of many of our teens today.

For Latinos to have an active role in the world of cyber-space,
high-tech and global entrepeneurship, the American educational system
must produce critical thinkers who can become pro-active participants.
However, for too many Latinos, our educational system is a hurdle to
high for them to jump. With the upgrading of SAT’s and high school state
exams, we Latino leaders must revise our priorities and prepare our
children for the present and future. While music and entertainment take
center role in our living rooms, our children fall behind in school. We
are the largest minority in population, but the smallest minority in
higher education. Like bears, Latinos hybernate and risk a voice and
place in American history.

Republicans and Democrats have shown interest in immigration,
health care, tax benefits and reducing the deficit. How about education?
We may have to do it ourselves. Wake-up Latino! Let us be spear-headed
about ways in which to improve interest in reading and writing. With two
Latino astronauts being trained for the next shuttle space mission, we
our in a position that we cannot take for granted. Academic standards
need to be enhanced with vision and knowledge on how to identify, tackle
and improve our children’s interest in all subject areas. We Latinos
need more role models to go back to school and talk and interact with
our children. It is time to design an educational agenda that will meet
the expectations of all within the Latino community. Only then will they
have an opportunity of growth to earn a degree and receive by grace
what has been already granted to us all, an education.