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The City Journals

Taylorsville High Latinos in Action Program Celebrates Student Diversity

Oct 14, 2015 12:01PM ● By Stephanie Lauritzen

By Stephanie Lauritzen

Taylorsville - Taylorsville High School Latinos in Action President Ana Zamora admits she first joined LIA at the insistence of her mother. “My mom really wanted me to join, and at first I was iffy about it. But I learned that I really liked helping people, and getting out of my comfort zone,” Zamora said. Zamora enjoyed her sophomore year experience with LIA so much that she considered applying to be a class officer her junior year. “I thought I’d maybe be chosen as the club secretary, but I became President instead. I realized I had the opportunity to so something really awesome.”

Taylorsville - Latinos in Action is a leadership class offered in 105 Utah schools and throughout the Intermountain West. The program seeks to bridge the educational gap between the Latino community and the rest of society by providing students with service, leadership, literacy, and education opportunities throughout their high school experience. LIA also focuses on increasing bilingualism and appreciation for cultural heritage through service and participation within the Latino community. 

The LIA values are reflected in Taylorsville High’s LIA chapter, where Zamora and her presidency work together in organizing events, service projects, and tutoring opportunities for fellow LIA members. “We work hard and distribute the work evenly,” explains Zamora, “we accomplish a lot when we work together.” Last year Zamora and the Taylorsville LIA organized a tutoring program at Plymouth Elementary, where each LIA student was assigned a 2nd grader for mentoring. Students volunteered at the elementary school in order to help their student improve reading and spelling skills. LIA also volunteered the Hartvigsen School, participating in the school’s special-needs program and helping choreograph dances for the school’s Dance Connection program. 

Taylorsville social studies teacher and baseball coach Jake Brown initially saw the role of LIA advisor as a temporary position. “Our Assistant Principal Terri Roylance started looking at our population demographics, and asked us to think of ways we could better serve the Latino population. When Latinos in Action was proposed, I thought it was something I could start, and then pass on to someone else down the line,” Brown said. Three years later, Brown is still the LIA advisor- “I fell in love with the program and the kids. I feel like LIA is the most significant thing I do in affecting the lives of kids at my school. The program has really grown on me.” Brown sees LIA as vital in providing “an upward path to Latino students, it acts as a bridge to college and careers. By providing students with leadership roles in the community, they learn how to improve their own lives and the lives of others within the community... success in school extends to success in a future career.” 

Brown believes in playing a supportive role when it comes to advising his LIA students. He jokingly admits to sometimes feeling “like a fraud,” when it comes to running the program, since he encourages his LIA students to initiate and plan their own projects. “LIA is successful because it is student lead and student driven,” he explains. “I’m here to help them brainstorm and problem-solve, but I let them run the program themselves. They learn how to follow through on a project all the way to the end, and it is very empowering.” Brown hopes that his students are learning that “good leadership is not easy, you make mistakes, and sometimes it is hard to tell people what to do. But my students are learning those skills, and are becoming good and effective leaders. I might ‘throw them into the fire’ sometimes, but I always give them lots of chances to learn and try again.” 

This year the Taylorsville LIA program intends to maintain their emphasis on community service. They will continue their tutoring program at Plymouth Elementary and their volunteer work at Hartvigsen School. Additionally, LIA students will also continue to act as translators for parents at district-wide Parent Teacher Conferences. 

In order to celebrate and maintain cultural literacy, LIA hopes to continue a new tradition of hosting dances for students in the Latino community. Last year, the Taylorsville High LIA hosted a dance for over 100 Latino students within the Granite School District, playing and dancing to Latin music in a celebration of their cultural heritage. LIA also hopes to help students embrace their heritage by hosting a Culture Carnival at Taylorsville High, in which LIA creates displays and information booths on various Latin American cultures. Advisor Jake Brown hopes the experience will give students an opportunity to “show others who they are, and be proud of their heritage.”