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The City Journals

Hillcrest High School Latinos in action becomecommunity leaders, tutor elementary students

Oct 31, 2016 11:23AM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High School’s Latinos in Action, who help teach elementary school children, attended a conference on Oct. 13 at Salt Lake Community College. (Paulina Vizcarra/Hillcrest High School)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Midvale, Utah - When junior Moises Gonzalez Orduna steps into the classroom of East Midvale Elementary, he knows he could be having a powerful impact.

“My main goal is to go into the class and help them grow,” Moises said. “We realize that we may be helping change their lives by helping them learn and being an example to them.”

Moises is one of about 50 students enrolled in the Latinos in Action class, one that requires a 2.5 grade point average minimum and good school citizenship. At Hillcrest High School, the grade point average is higher, at 3.0. Students need teacher recommendations and need to be bilingual. The course focuses greatly on service, such as tutoring at East Midvale Elementary or providing two eight-week afterschool cultural arts programs at Midvalley Elementary.

Moises, who is the president of Hillcrest High School’s Latinos in Action, said that students in the class are committed to helping younger students.

“We want to increase their literacy and math scores, especially those who may be struggling. We see where the teacher needs us and usually help tutor an individual or small group. Sometimes, a new student may have been put into the school and needs help with the language. That’s where our bilingual abilities help out,” he said.

East Midvale Elementary fourth-grade teacher Sadie Ruetz said that the Hillcrest Latinos in Action students typically work with her students individually, reading books and helping them with guided reading questions. They also work with students’ weekly vocabulary flashcards.

“This helps me as a teacher because I am able to target a smaller group of students with my whole group instruction,” she said. “I have some challenging students who really need that one-on-one attention, so it provides them with their academic and attention needs as well as helping me to teach a more in-depth lesson for the majority of the class.”

Ruetz said the high school students have a powerful impact on her students.

“My students love our LIAs. I have a large majority of students who speak both English and Spanish, so it helps foster such a positive environment. They are able to relate to the high school students in many ways. They are such great role models,” she said.

East Midvale second-grade teacher Katie Alvord echoes Ruetz’s statement about the appreciation students have for the Latinos in Action.

“My students seem to admire these students who volunteer and get excited about reading with them,” she said. “This helps me as a teacher because it gives the students one-on-one attention and practice in their fluent reading and understanding.”

Moises said that sometimes the Latinos in Action students have been in similar situations and that they are empathetic to these learners.

“Sometimes these little kids open up to us knowing we may have walked in their shoes. We’ve learned to be better communicators to both the kids and adults and more open-minded. Before I moved to Utah and became involved in LIA, I was shy and didn’t get involved in the community. Through LIA and my church, I have found I am more hospitable, a better listener and want to help out. As a result, my grades have improved,” he said.

Hillcrest High Latinos in Action adviser John Olsen said that throughout the year, these students give 100 hours of service to the community.

“They’re entrenched in the community and know what needs to be done,” Olsen said. “They’re breaking stereotypes and tackling issues and helping those in need. They’re role models at Hillcrest High School and are creating a new image through their professionalism, service and leadership,” he said.