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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.

A Gateway to Latino Education: Vouchers

by Manuel Hernández

Most Latinos believe that improving the American system of
education is a top priority for their families. One attempt to
facilitate the education of our children and rescue children from
failing school systems, especially those in inner-city neighborhoods are
school voucher programs. The program proposed in states across the
United States of America would distribute vouchers to parents, usually
in inner-city school districts. Parents could then use the vouchers to
pay for the cost of tuition at private schools of their choice. After a
period of tentative receptiveness, Latinos and vouchers have finally
found a personal connection and are walking together and gaining solid
ground amongst its participants.
Instead of taking sides in the debate and discussions on the
issue, Latinos support public education and school vouchers because they
feel they have been underserved by the educational system and are
seeking strategies to improve the education of their children. The
cultural diversity and political savyness within the Latino population
have paved the way for the program and have enhanced the alternatives of
Latino children. According to recent statistics, close to 60 percent of
Latino children graduate from high school. While the percentage has
steadily augmented during the last few years, there are still less
Latinos in college today when compared to other student populations.
Vouchers are depicted as a getway and a window of opportunites for many
American Latinos.
In the state of Florida, 27% of the school population is taking
advantage of the voucher programs. While critics view the program as an
interference between state and church, others simply see it as a tool
to get into small neighborhood schools where academics, values and
respect are raised a notch further. For our children to make progress in
higher education registration, it is imperative that our children
receive the educational opportunities that in the past have not been
available to them.
Latinos have gained degree levels in the past, but they continue
to remain underrepresented in colleges and universities throughout
America. We are 13% of the American population but are 6% of those able
to obtain a bachelor’s degree. As one of the blessed to complete a
graduate degree, I am aware of the social, cultural, financial and
academic hardships found in the “road less traveled” (Robert Frost). It
takes great character, pride and “sheer will” (Isaiah Thomas) to
overcome the barriers and defy the odds when completing a higher
education degree. As I left a wife, a newborn son and a job to embark on
a seven-week intensive training to complete two papers in-lieu of
thesis, I wondered how difficult it must have been for the thousands of
other Latinos just like me. As an advocate of public school education, I
myself was entrapped in my own self-pride when I first heard of the
innovative voucher program, but I am also an advocate of educational
In a world of uncertainites, Latinos have aligned themselves
with opportunities. Vouchers are an opportunity of educational growth,
and there is a demand among Latinos for educational choices. We Latinos
have understood the value of politics, work, culture, religion and
family but now we are understanding the value of education. One of the
greatest assets of the American way of life is equality. Vouchers are
another door opened in the road to democracy. The voucher program is
best reflected in Irving Krsitol’s following quotation “Democracy does
not gurantee equality of conditions-it only guarantees equality of
opportunity” (Good Quotations by Famous People: collected by Gabe
Robbins over the years)