Youth Advocate in Action: Expanding Supports for English Language Learner Students

June 30th, 2020
Posted In: Uncategorized

Ivette Maza, Youth Advocate for Mentoring, MENTOR National

In order to uncover the realities of living in the United States of America as a first-generation and/or English language learner, it is important to acknowledge America’s origin and its current discriminatory and oppressive systems. The United States of America, glorified for being a developed nation, was created on stolen Native American land and built by the labor of enslaved Africans to solely benefit White Colonizers and their lineages. The American Dream, a term coined by writer James Truslow Adams who was born into a wealthy family, was described as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” Assuming everyone has an equal opportunity for upward mobility according to their innate capabilities bluntly states a perspective that only white privilege grants access to. Indeed, what is a dream for one race, turns into a nightmare for the rest when immigrants or children of immigrants realize that their bravery in confronting legal forces and death itself for the sake of an improved life has brought them into a land that favors and primarily benefits White people. The presence or absence of U.S. citizenship is incapable of depicting or encompassing the harsh reality of first-generation and/or English language learners when facing systemic and individual discrimination. Nonetheless, individuals from around the world enter the United States despite most not thoroughly comprehending how they will be categorized, mistreated, and deprived of achieving their goals based on their outward and inner identity and country of origin.

Based on personal experience, many Latinx individuals enter the U.S. for the opportunity to fulfill their own American Dream, most notably regarding or including education. There is a prominent belief that receiving an education could improve overall quality of life. Education is critical to support young people and families and helping them reach their goals. However, school systems throughout the nation do not currently provide sufficient holistic resources for K-12 English language learning students and families. In order to help fill that enormous gap, Congress should promote familial academic involvement and address student’s social-emotional and mental well-being through amending Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and encouraging schools to have a culturally inclusive curriculum

A mentor-mentee relationship not only benefits both participating parties by learning and/or cultivating communication skills and sharing knowledge but provides a space to actively work on achieving set goals and address the intricacies of successfully navigating various environments without compromising one’s self-identity. I have found that mentoring and being a mentee is a crucial form of guidance, particularly when navigating the U.S. education system as a first-generation and/or English language learner student, like myself. Though no one person can change a system in its entirety, the bond between a mentor and mentee most certainly can provide the tools and resources necessary in order to best turn a discriminatory American Dream into their own envisioned dream.


About Youth Advocates for Mentoring

Through the Youth Advocates for Mentoring program, MENTOR trains 12 young leaders on advocacy, policy, and grassroots organizing skills in order to create positive change in their communities and nation. MENTOR believes that young people must be at the forefront of addressing systemic issues and that this comprehensive training program provides young people the real life skills they need to communicate with elected officials, address issues in their communities, empower their peers into action, and advocate for the power of mentoring. To learn more contact Adriane Alicea

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