A group of incoming high school seniors is getting a taste of what college is all about while learning about the importance of identity and culture.
The students from Seguin High School are spending a part of their summer at Texas Lutheran University as part of ¡Sí Más!: Building Bridges, a program designed to create a pipeline between TLU and the local students.
The program — as created by Jennifer Mata the director of TLU’s Center for American Studies through a grant provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities Common Good Initiative — allows students interested in Mexican-American Studies the opportunity to take a course in the discipline.
Not only do the students have the ability to gain some college credit if they opt to go to TLU after graduation, but they are learning deeper life lessons, Mata said.
“I think what’s important is they learn who they are. I mean you don’t have to be Mexican American, but I think a lot of the issues like in the novels we’re reading a lot of the characters goes through certain issues,” she said. “You just learn to empower yourself either through your ethnic identity, class identity, through their gender identity.”
The program teaches the students about race, class and gender and the different identities, so they can figure out what identities make them who they are, Mata said.
“And to understand where they come from. I also think that’s very empowering,” she said.
Several of the students in the ¡Sí Más! program agreed that it has allowed them to learn more about their culture and where they come from.
“It’s really cool because I was born in Mexico and I moved here when I was 11. I learned about culture over there and when we had the Mexican Independence and all that,” said Orlando Cortez, a Seguin High School senior. “Then coming over here I learned that they had to fight too like they were fighting over there for our rights. It’s really cool to see the fights we had to put up with to be regular people.”
Senior Guadalupe Narvaez added that a lot of what they are learning in class isn’t taught in the regular public education system.
“This kind of fills in the gaps. During the civil rights movement and stuff where were the Mexicans?’” Narvaez said. “Because we knew where the black people were. You knew where the white people were. If you ask a teacher they are like ‘well I can’t answer that. It’s not in the curriculum.’”
All of the students in this summer’s class returned from last summer’s program where they initially took an Introduction to Mexican American Studies class.
“This summer and last summer the experiences has been really good. It’s fun. I’m out of the house,” senior Rachel Essler said. “I’m making new friends and having the college experience without being in college.”
At the end of the program, the students will take what they learned in the program and create “testimonios” or testimonies about themselves, Mata said.
“I want them to tell their story and I think that’s a really nice way to tell a story because it’s in digital form so they’re able to add music, visuals,” Mata said. “They are able to create a narrative that doesn’t necessarily really have to be linear like a paper. The testimonial can be a little more creative. I think it helps students see there are many dimensions in a different way.”