Massachusetts Community Models Successful Programs to Support Latinx Students

by Vins
Published: Updated:

In Southern Berkshire County, Massachusetts, families of Latinx students and Latinx organizations have taken action to advocate for their children and secure academic support and resources, as the Berkshire Eagle reported in November 2022.

Southern Berkshire County has seen a large increase in Latinx-speaking families, with ten percent of its public school students being non-native English speakers. Parents, Latinx organizations, and teachers have rallied together to provide academic, emotional, and legal support for Latinx students, who can struggle with the language barrier.

America Lopez, an immigrant and mother who understood the barriers and shortcomings of the school system for Spanish-speaking students, organized school assemblies for the county’s Spanish-speaking families. Lopez also used WhatsApp to organize more than thirty Latinx families and provide support for them during the pandemic. Lydia Johnson, an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, worked with Lopez in supporting Latinx students and their families. Johnson used her experience as an immigrant mother to encourage teachers to be more understanding of the Latinx population.

In addition to the assemblies led by Lopez, several other resources provided support for Latinx families and their students achieve success. One community forum introduced community members to Volunteers in Medicine (VIM), a non-profit organization that helps uninsured community members access healthcare services. As the Berkshire Eagle reported, 75 percent of its clients are immigrants. VIM also assists families in registering their children for school and summer camps. Volunteers started the Railroad Street Youth Project, a community center for 14 to 25-year-olds, and the Alas Club (“alas” means wings in Spanish) to bring together Latinx youth and provide them opportunities outside of school to connect with their peers.

As a result of these school and community programs, Latinx families said they were starting to see their children thrive and benefit.

Despite the successes of Southern Berkshire County’s academic and community programs, corporate news media have not covered this story. Corporate news media rarely cover how schools and community-based organizations in small towns are adapting to support Latinx students and to help immigrant families advocate for their children. One exception to this pattern of omission was an October 2022 article, produced by the Associated Press and published by U.S. News & World Report, about Russellville, Alabama, a community with a significant population of Latinx immigrants that has used federal COVID-19 relief money to develop programs to better serve students who are learning English. But, more generally, corporate news media appear not to be interested in these issues, providing little to no coverage of schools and communities successfully dealing with challenges similar to those addressed in the Berkshire Eagle’s report.

Source: Aina de Lapparent Alvarez, “Here’s How Southern Berkshire County Latino Families Went From Being ‘Lost’ in the School System to Getting the Help They Needed,” Berkshire Eagle, November 9, 2022.

Student Researchers: Abigail Ariagno, Jake Grant, Jessica Lewis (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)