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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.

Latino Education: The Weakest Link : By Manuel Hernandez

If specific and concrete programs are not implemented ?as soon as yesterday (Burt Posner)?, education will continue to be the Latino?s population?s weakest link. Whenever charts, statistics and reports on crime, poverty, unemployment, drugs, teenage pregnancy and other social misadventures are depicted and graphically displayed in the media, Latinos are almost always first in each category. Without education, the on-growing Latino people risk losing their voice in American institutions across America.

There is no doubt that heroic efforts have been made by schools, universities, non-profit organizations and other institutions to support and help children receive a quality education. Notwithstanding those past and present efforts, a national program must be organized, coordinated and integrated immediately to detain the Latino high school dropout rate and improve the percentages of Latino teens in college and universities.

History has taught us to look back at the social struggles of many groups, individuals and non-profit organizations of the 1960?s and 1970?s that left us with groundbreaking community and academic organizations such as Aspira and Upward Bound, just to mention a few, that went beyond academic expectations, walked the extra mile and made a difference in the academic lives of millions of American children, including Latinos. As a consequence, Bilingual Programs were created and placed into effect to meet the academic demands and educational needs of the great Latino immigration wave that swooped across America in the decades immediately following World Ward II. The transition to the mainstream for the millions of Latino and other immigrant children was smooth and swift and the cultural bridge was crossed with love, care and devotion.

But The English Only movement and the antagonists of these programs killed them, and once again we find ourselves in an educational dilemma. At the dawn of a new era, we find ourselves once more at a crossroads, and without a doubt the weakest link for the largest minority in this century is education.

Educational programs in America need initiatives. First, there must be a strategy to help students, especially Latino teens to enter high school reading at their grade level and create interest in literature and improve progress in reading and as a result, students will improve their scores on city, state and national testing requirements. Secondly, United States based Latino/a literature may be presented as an alternative (tool) in the English classroom. Last, integrate Latino/a literature and other minority literatures (depending on the dominant immigrant populations within a geograhical boundary) in the curriculum as a bridge/jump off point to the American and British classics.

United States based Latino/a literature written in English by Latino/a immigrant writers themselves helps to make a transition to the literature of Hemingway and Shakespeare. The literature constructs upon the Latino teens' prior experiences and skills. It is a mirror of the language, culture and history of the American Latino experience and allows them to transform their learning experience into a dynamic, pro-active and meaningful adventure with purpose and a greater understanding of themselves.

A well-designed reading and writing program should provide opportunities for daily reading and writing activities. Scholars and researchers agree that it is only when a personal, social and cultural understanding of the second language learner's background is obtained that the learning skills of that L2 student are developed. Latino/a literature provides students with authentic reading and symbols necessary to make a personal connection with the literature.

The vision of the initiative is to help teachers improve educational outcomes of teens, and provide the motivation and encouragement needed for them to help teens read at their grade level and to develop progress in reading. This may be just an initiative, but it has already been placed into effect with excellent results in cities such as New York, Saint Paul, Orlando and Fajardo, Puerto Rico just to mention a few. Ideas are first envisioned, then developed and ultimately placed in action. The purpose of the initiative is to transform the weakest link into the strongest asset of the Latino population in America.