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PHONE: 1.800.225.2027 / 1.904.256.7000

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Jacksonville UniversityOffice of Admissions

2800 University Blvd. N., Jacksonville, FL 32211

Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Division of Humanities

Jacksonville University
2800 University Blvd N.
Jacksonville, Florida, 32211

Tel. 904-256-7102

Designed by prof. Jorge. M. 2011. Jacksonville University.

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According to the most recent National Council of La Raza’s Executive Report on the current state of Latino child well-being in the United States, “Although Latino children make up 22% of the total population under age 18, they account for 33% of all children living in poverty”. (NCLR, iii)  In spite of the fact that most Latino children are U.S. Citizens, a vast majority live within immigrant families with at least one foreign-born parent. Often times, this will limit children’s access to benefits they are eligible for, including health care and education. Due to the domestic intricacies, cultural gaps, and social misconceptions, Latino children are disadvantaged in the educational system from an early age, and only 55% graduate from high school with a regular diploma1.

Nonetheless, a select few make it out of the barrio and into the boarding school setting. According to the National Association of Independent Schools Annual Stats Online Statistics Survey for the 2009-2010 Academic year, only 3.2% of the student population in member schools was of Latino/Hispanic origins2. Although the numbers do not represent a critical mass, there is a moral obligation on the part of school administrators and educators to ensure the success of this group of students in the educational community.

Since the seventeenth century The Religious Society of Friends has been at the forefront of exercising that moral obligation. Although a small religious community, Quakers have had a major impact in social policies and education around the nation and around the world. “As the Bible puts it, in Christ (that is, in true spiritual consciousness) there is neither “Jew nor Greek,” male nor female, slave nor free; there is instead that of God in every one. The Quakers took this to heart.”3 

Westtown School, nestled in West Chester Pennsylvania is the nation’s oldest, and continuously operating boarding school. It is a residential and academic institution that upholds principles of social equity to proactively address issues of social integration, academic achievement, cultural adaptation, and leadership development. In fact, twenty percent of the Upper School population is comprised by students of color, many of whom are Latinos.

In response to the needs of a growing multicultural community and guided by Quaker principles, the school administration founded the Families of Color (FOC) in 2001. It is an organization comprised of parents, teachers, administrators, and high school student leaders. Its main objective is to provide a support network for students, parents, and faculty of color while offering events and initiatives designed to forge deeper unity within the Westtown community through multicultural dialogue, art and education. In April of 2011, the group changed its name to the Families for Multicultural Community (FMC) which more accurately reflects its spirit of inclusion in its efforts to celebrate and enhance Westtown’s commitment to diversity.

Another institutional effort to bridge the gap from barrio to boarding school has been the creation of the Full Access Fund which enables students on financial aid to participate entirely in Westtown’s programs. In addition to that, the FMC provides boarding students of color with host families from the parent body. Also, there are many student organizations and affinity groups to support assimilation and acculturation to the boarding school setting under the guidance of the office of the Dean of Students.

At Westtown School, supporting the minority student population is much more than isolated efforts on the part of admissions officers. It is part of an institutional paradigm and intentional focus on developing programs that ensure student success. Westtown does not claim to have found the answer, however  the belief that the Light within every human being represents nothing less than a bond linking all in spiritual equality and brotherhood guides daily life in a learning community.


Notes:

1. National Council of La Raza, America’s Future: Latino Child Well-Being in Numbers and Trends, April 28, 2010.

2. http://www.nais.org/files/PDFs/NAISFactsAtAGlance200910.pdf

3. http://www.pathsoflearning.net/articles_Quaker.php

References

http://www.pathsoflearning.net/articles_Quaker.php

http://www.nais.org/files/PDFs/NAISFactsAtAGlance200910.pdf

National Council of La Raza, America’s Future: Latino Child Well-Being in Numbers and Trends, April 28, 2010.

Bridging the Gap Toward

Achievement at Westtown School

By Mónica Ruiz-Meléndez, Ph.D

Mónica Ruiz-Meléndez, Ph.D , Westtown School, Chair, World Languages Department.