Buenos días. Good morning.
My name is Jose Acosta and I am a parent AND a teacher at Escuela de Guadalupe. So, I guess you could say that I am pretty committed to this school!
Let me tell you why.
When I was a child, my first home in the United States was in South Central L.A. My mom worked several jobs so that we could pay the rent and have food on the table. Later, she moved us to Denver where she believed we would be safer and we would have better education opportunities.
My mom was just like the parents I see every day at Escuela de Guadalupe. Many of our parents work two jobs apiece, tag-teaming at-home duties for night-shifts and overtime. They do it for the same reasons my mom did it: to provide a better future for their children. But Escuela’s children are learning something that I was not fortunate enough to learn until much later in life. They belong. They are valued. Their heritage and their family’s traditions are important. They are future leaders.
My experience was very different. When I was a child, we spoke Spanish at home. But as I grew, I quickly learned that my language and my culture were not “cool.” I remember hearing about children in schools who were hit for speaking Spanish. Other kids called us names because we spoke Spanish or because of what we looked like.
Of course, we needed to speak English.
At Escuela de Guadalupe, our kids are learning English, and they are learning it well enough to attend any school, public or private in metro Denver. But they don’t have to abandon Spanish, or abandon part of their identity to do it.
Here, at Escuela de Guadalupe, every day we tell children that their culture, their language and their families make them special and important! We tell them that they belong. This idea of belonging – the feeling that people care whether you show up every day, that you are accepted and respected – this is the most fundamental step toward achieving your dreams and becoming a leader of tomorrow.
In my case, I basically abandoned the language that I was born with, the language that my entire family spoke. I thought I had to, to fit in, to survive.
Several years later, when I was applying for a teaching job here in Denver at a public dual-language school, they asked me to take a test to prove my literacy… and I failed the Spanish portion of the test! That was shocking.
Escuela students won’t have to reclaim a lost language – and what I am trying to tell you is that it is not just the language that they will retain. It’s their identity – part of their soul.
Ultimately, I studied and passed the test and I got a job as a teacher at Escuela de Guadalupe, the best dual-language school in Denver. I value my culture, my heritage and my language and I am contributing positively to our community… just like Escuela de Guadalupe’s students will do in the future.
When we help children to have the sense that they belong, when they build on that pride and gain a second language, studying every topic from math to social studies in two languages, we not only open many doors for their careers, we create people with the self-worth and self-confidence to lead us into the future.
Thank you for letting me share my story with you.