Land of 10,000 stories: A teacher's promise kare11 feature
a mission to set up st. paul latino students for success
Thank you for your interest in the Walter’s Wish Fund. I am excited to tell you about my dream, and how you may become a part of it!
In 2007 I was a 3rd grade bilingual teacher for Latino students in St. Paul, MN. My Chihuahua, Walter, was our class pet. Walter was a best-in-show dog, so I used his winning pictures and ribbons as a springboard for my students to dream about how they could “be the best” at something when they grew up. It worked! Each year my classes had a great time writing about their dreams of being the best doctor, soccer player, teacher and so on. But in my third year of teaching I came across a disturbing article that stated that the high school graduation rate for Latinos was less than 50%! Even worse, the number of Latino students that finished college with a four year degree was less than 17%! Here I was encouraging my students to be their best only to find out that one day only half of my class would graduate from high school, let alone seek higher education. I could NOT let this happen to my kids! I wanted to see all of them graduate and succeed!
That’s when Walter’s Wish was born. In June of 2007 I gathered all of my students and I promised them that Walter and I would be there for them throughout their educational journey. With the help of many teacher and professional volunteers I started a series of “Institutes,” which were offered on the second Saturday of every month. Many gracious friends and donors helped me to raise money to have busses pick students up from their homes and bring them to Concordia University. From 1:00pm to 3:30pm for the past four years students have shown up to a place where we encouraged their academic achievement, provided them with a college-educated mentor, worked on many engaging projects and always taught them to never give up and to always believe in themselves.
My dream of helping other students was working so well that in June of 2011, Walter’s Wish joined Minnesota’s largest Latino non-profit, CLUES (Comunidades Latinos Unidos En Servicio – Latino Communities United in Service). Their belief in my program was a huge vote of confidence and it finally gave me the assurance that the program had a bright and sustainable future. In the Fall of 2011 the students re-named the program "YA! Youth in Action" and added a new leadership component to it!