November 15, 2006 — Eighteen first-graders enrolled in Adelante’s ballet folklorico class will perform in the Student Union on Thursday, Nov. 16 during their next field trip to campus. They have been invited to be a part of the 12th Annual MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán) High School Conference “Uniting Communities: Our Education, Our Liberation / Uniendo Comunidades: Nuestra Educacion, Nuestra Liberacion” because of the relationships MEChA students have developed as mentors for these students, said Luciano Marzuli, MEChA supervisor. They will perform during lunch at 12:30p in the Union Ballroom for over 400 high school students attending the conference.
These dancers are part of the 50 first graders from Jackson Elementary’s dual language immersion program who will return to the University of Utah next Thursday, Nov. 16 for their second trip to campus this fall as part of Adelante, a college awareness partnership between three faculty from the College of Education and Jackson Elementary School. They are scheduled to visit with staff and international students affiliated with the International Center, which offers services for international students and for students who wish to study abroad. They will visit four stations with hands-on activities about various cultures, including learning how to write a few Japanese letters.
“The Adelante ballet folklorico performance provides MEChA with a tangible way to introduce the importance of mentoring relationships to our high school attendees. It showcases how invested many MeCHA students are at Jackson,” said Luciano Marzuli, MEChA supervisor.
Under the direction of Monica Gomez-Rogerson, and lots of help from parents, the students will perform La Raspa.
In October, these first graders visited the College of Nursing, where an activity with bubbles helped teach about germs and how they travel, and the Exercise and Sport Science, where the kids learned about the importance of exercise by skipping, hopping, waving, and jumping with a rainbow-colored parachute.
In addition, 47 kindergartners from Jackson made their second visit to campus on Nov. 2. The tour included a visit to the Museum of Natural History, lunch in the Student Union, and an activity with members of MEChA. Earlier this fall, the kindergartners toured Marriott Library & fountain, picnicked on campus, and toured Rice-Eccles Stadium. Vice president’s Karen Dace and Theresa Martinez greeted the 10 parents and students and said they hoped to “see these kindergartners in the University of Utah’s class of 2019.”
Last year, the first grade students inaugurated the Adelante program with their five different visits to the University of Utah, accumulating 50 hours of college experience. Three separate field trips allowed nearly 50 students to visit various museums, biology labs, dance studios, and greenhouses on campus. Two week-long camps during the spring and summer provided the experience of learning at a university. An average of 20 parents shared in the experience alongside their children, solidifying the hope that their child will one day earn a college degree.
For first grader Angela Rodriguez, visiting the University convinced her that she will go on to college. “I have a t-shirt that says ‘future college student,'” she said, “so, yeah, I am going to college.”
Spanish language kindergarten teacher Kim Dalquist, who has participated in all seven visits to the University of Utah campus, said that one of the greatest strengths of Adelante is that her students can make a connection between Jackson and the university. “A few of the university students mentors who volunteer at Jackson said to my students, ‘I get to come to your school every week and today you’re coming to mine!’” she explained.
Researchers Dolores Delgado Bernal, Enrique Alemán, and Octavio Villalpando initiated the program based on studies that indicate that the earlier students and their families begin to consider college as an option, the more likely students are to actually go to college. “We believe every child has the potential to attend and succeed in college. Our goals with Adelante are to prepare students and their families for college by integrating higher education into their school experience and into their personal lives, and to help establish a college-going culture within the school,” said Delgado Bernal.
Eventually, the research team hopes to grow the program by extending one grade level each year until it is available kindergarten through sixth grade dual language immersion programs, and then the entire school.
One of the components of establishing a college-going atmosphere besides the field trips and academic camps are providing college student mentors for Jackson students. Most of the mentors are students of color who attend the University of Utah. They volunteer in the elementary school classrooms weekly.
Chris Macia, a history major and volunteer said that the Adelante program expands his way of thinking. “The Jackson Elementary kids have still much to learn and I feel they have a different perspective on the world coming from a child’s point of view, but they also have much to teach. They get their point across without having to elaborate or incorporate the use of big or confusing words.” Macia added the students shine when they get the chance to share their own knowledge. “When I read to them, for example, they begin telling me the story and what is about to happen, reminding me of how much they already know,” he said.
Jackson Elementary teachers are very grateful for the mentors, as well. Mary Lou Oland-Wong praised the mentors for their enthusiasm and respect of the learning environment. “They are very engaged and upbeat with the students. They understand that what we do at Jackson is rocket science and they are part of this science.”
Dalquist said her classroom is very attached to the mentors that visit her classroom. “During centers, one of the kiddies asked ‘When are the ‘meliantes’ going to get here?’ I didn’t know what she was talking about so I asked for clarification. ‘You know, the meliantes that come to read with us,’ Oh, ‘estudiantes’ (students)! It’s a beautiful, diverse group of mentors that are coming to Jackson and we’re very fortunate!” she said.
Adelante is a currently entering its 2nd year of study through funding provided by a University Neighborhood Partners grant. UNP bridges Utah’s flagship university, with six ethnically and culturally rich neighborhoods west of State Street in mutually-beneficial ways for both west side residents and the University of Utah community. Increasing access to and awareness of higher education grounds all of UNP’s efforts. According to figures from the Office of Institutional Analysis, less than 100 students from west Salt Lake neighborhoods graduated from the University of Utah last year. Adelante is one of UNP’s many collaborations that focuses on developing sustainable strategies to increase higher education as a personal option for youth living in west Salt Lake.
Dr. Delgado Bernal is an Associate Professor in Education, Culture and Society. Her research includes investigating the educational experiences of Chicana/o college students and highlighting the cultural knowledge base that helps Chicana/o students overcome the challenges and obstacles they confront on their educational journey. Dr. Alemán is an Assistant Professor in Educational Leadership and Policy. His research agenda includes studying the effects of educational policy on Latina/o and Chicana/o students and communities. Dr. Villalpando is an Associate Professor in Educational Leadership and Policy. His scholarship analyzes how racial inequality in U.S. higher education shapes the educational outcomes and experiences of students and faculty of color, particularly for Chicanas/os.