Mexican Education Comes to U.S.

Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times, January 11, 2008

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The Mexican government opened its latest Plaza Comunitaria, or Community Plaza, Thursday at San Fernando Middle School, minutes from Vidal’s house. There are 13 such centers throughout Los Angeles County, aimed at helping Mexican nationals complete their basic education. The centers offer free classes, in person or through video and the Internet, to Mexican nationals living in the U.S.

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More than 40% of Mexican nationals over age 25 living in the U.S. had less than a ninth-grade education, according to 2005 data compiled by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Consular officials said the Spanish-language classes improve immigrants’ self-esteem and enable them to help their children with schoolwork. The education in their native tongue also better prepares immigrants to learn English and encourages their assimilation. Hundreds of Mexican nationals have taken classes since the first local center opened in 2003. There are similar programs elsewhere, including San Jose and San Bernardino.

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Space for the program is provided by schools and community centers, and the Mexican government supplies the textbooks. Students work at their own pace with the help of mostly volunteer teachers or tutors.

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San Fernando Middle School Principal Rafael Balderas said his goal is to build a “college-going culture.”

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