A local leadership group has formed to create effective change in our community related to education, food availability, resources for parents, and many other positive outcomes. What began as an initiative to address educational issues head-on has now blossomed into a community-enriching, multi-faceted project involving Hispanic leaders of Midland, Educate Midland, Midland Independent School District, Midland College, and other important and enthused organizations.
The Midland Hispanic Leadership Group was formed in the fall of 2018. This group was originally brought together by way of Educate Midland’s “I Am My Child’s First Teacher” Spanish language campaign to help brainstorm ways to better communicate with Spanish-speaking parents and families. Educate Midland realized the need for connecting with this large portion of the parent population. With 63% percent of Midland ISD’s student population being Hispanic, Educate Midland thought it important to rely on the experience, knowledge, and opinion of Hispanic community leaders. “We called the group together because we realized that just because we have converted our web site into the Spanish language or our ’I am my child’s first teacher’ campaign into the television, radio and digital Spanish mediums does not mean that we are authentically engaged with our Hispanic community.” We recognized that we need their leadership as we cannot know what we do not know without their leadership, so we had to humble ourselves and acknowledge our need for their direction. On that note we stepped back and have begun a process of listening to the group’s counsel,” says Mike Mills, Educate Midland Program Director. The group began a dialogue on how to engage the community. Participants concluded that it would be best to start small, with one elementary campus, and grow from there. South Elementary was determined as the “kick-off” campus by the Leadership Group. “If we can change one elementary school’s outcome with parents and children, what more could we achieve?” says Lynda Webb, Midland College Associate Dean of Adult Education. Surprisingly, numerous needs, many outside the realm of the children’s education, were found at the campus. These needs included groceries for families and ESL resources for parents. “These families have the potential to greatly contribute to the city if provided the proper resources and support. They make our community more culturally diverse and culturally rich,” says Webb.
The Midland Hispanic Leadership Group first approached the hunger issue at South Elementary. “Poverty is such an issue for so many students and families. How can they concentrate on passing their classes when they’re hungry?” comments Webb. The group discovered that more than 200 families, totaling around 500 children, are without food on the weekends at South Elementary. Using their resources and spreading their passion for the project, the Leadership Group reached out to the West Texas Food Bank for assistance. Together, the Leadership Group and WTFB established a food pantry on campus.
Next, the needs of the parents were addressed. It was determined that parents required Spanish resources to become more informed of what was happening at their child’s school, as well as to become informed of opportunities in the community to better their lives. To empower the parents of South Elementary students, Midland College Cogdell Learning Center began integrating job training and conversations about children’s education into their curriculum for English Language
Learners. “We want to provide a place where these adults can ask for and receive help, where they have access to Spanish resources, and where they feel empowered to consider what’s next in their life and what’s next in their child’s life,” says Lynda Webb. The Cogdell Center has an 86% success rate of adult English Language Learners who progress and stay in the program through multiple semesters. Cogdell is offering instruction to South Elementary parents and hopes to provide ELL resources on campus in the near future.
As a result of such a large portion of the population being untapped due to a language barrier, Midland is missing a great opportunity for the input, knowledge, leadership, and involvement of these adults into our community. “The Southeast part of Midland is a sleeping giant. Once we can better listen and communicate with these adults, they may serve on district committees, participate and lead in the PTA, or even run for the school board!” says Mills. The impact of change being initiated at South Elementary by the Midland Hispanic Leadership Group trickles into other areas outside of education. “For instance, if we support family food stability with the food pantry, students are more likely to succeed in learning; if we provide English Language Learning resources to parents to help find better jobs, the life of the entire family will be improved. Supporting these families empowers them to become involved, which is critical to the educational outlook in Midland,” also states Lynda Webb.
In the short time since its conception, the Leadership Group has worked together successfully to make important change for one elementary school in MISD. “This is the biggest, most transformative partnership I’ve experienced in 17 years. This group of individuals has put their efforts where their mouths are in order to address a problem faced by an overlooked group of people in Midland,” comments Webb. Creating such a collective impact in such a short amount of time shows that transformation can occur when the community works together to lift its counterparts for the betterment of the whole. “If we can inform the community of issues such as this faced by MISD campuses and specific areas of our town, maybe individuals in the community will be inspired to be a part of the change. Members of the Midland Hispanic Leadership Group are leading by example saying ‘These are my neighbors and I have a responsibility to help, so what is my role?’” says Mills.