New Jersey Latinos and Education
Latinos have played an important role in education in New Jersey, as they have made contributions to teaching. In 2000 there were more than 5,000 Latino elementary and secondary school teachers in New Jersey. There are also numerous Latino college professors for example, from Bolivia (art), Argentina (physics), and Ecuador (Spanish). Many Latinos are also administrators in higher-education institutions, some of whom even became college and university presidents. Puerto Rican Carlos Hernandez, for example, was president of the New Jersey City University; Elsa Gomez, also a Puerto Rican, of Kean University; and Jose Lopez-Ida, a Cuban, of Bergen Community College. In 2005, 67 percent of Latinos in New Jersey graduated from high school, and 16 percent earned a bachelor’s degree.
Latino students receive mixed reactions from other students. A Guatemalan young man asserted, American students were almost always unhelpful. They deterred me from learning by mocking my cultural background. They made fun of my family and told me that I didn’t belong in the United States. Sometimes in the same family one child would do well in school, and another would not succeed. A Puerto Rican blue-collar family in Passaic had one son who did poorly in high school, but another son is an accomplished violinist and went to Harvard on a full scholarship.
Though many schools have only a few Latino students, some have a student body whose composition is more than 70 percent Latino such is the case with many schools in Hudson County. The state has mandated bilingual classes in schools that have more than 20 Spanish-speaking students; on the other hand schools that have less than 20 Spanish-speaking students offer ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. The state also funds an EOF (Equal Opportunity
Funding) program for college attendance for talented students with limited financial resources. A considerable number of Latino students have benefited from this program. Many colleges in the state have special programs, clubs, and counselors for Latino students. In addition, Rutgers University sponsors the Hispanic Women’s Leadership Institute, and Bergen County College sponsors the Hispanic Institute for Research and Development.
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