When you enter Huntington High School science teacher Rosario Lorenzana’s classroom you will notice among the jars of specimens soaking in formaldehyde, a sign across the lab table in the front of the room that states “Si se puede!” or “You can do it!” Students can’t help but see it since it’s in their direct line of vision. Yet is remains a vivid daily reminder to have confidence.
The students in Ms. Lorenzana’s class relocated to the United States from Central and South American countries. Some left families behind in search of a better life and often a safer community. But like their teenage peers across the country, there are constant challenges in school and life in general.
Four years ago, Ms. Lorenzana began gathering students after school who needed tutoring and English language support. Word spread quickly to other students and it became known that the teacher’s classroom was a place not only for science and language review, but other support, including understanding American culture and navigating a big high school.
What evolved was a small community that became in many ways a second home for many students. Soon the group began to grow. Realizing the needs of the students reached beyond academics and language, Ms. Lorenzana organized the United Amigos club at the high school.
United Amigos meets once a week for not only general academic and language support, but to plan and execute various community service initiatives. For example, club members gather winter coats and food for local pantries several times a year. They participate in the Safe Halloween program for elementary school children at the high school and play a role in dances on Valentine’s Day and Cinco de Mayo.
This spring, United Amigos, English as a new language teacher Teresa Connolly and home language arts teacher Itzel Cedilla Rosas hosted the high school’s first bilingual poetry reading event in collaboration with librarian Jeffrey Marciano.
“Many students do not often get the opportunity to visit their home countries and see family members they’ve left behind, but here in Huntington students are establishing a good life where they can feel part of the community as they help each other and make a continual effort to do well in school,” Ms. Connolly said. “On days where challenges of academics, language and life seem the greatest, they can walk into Ms. Lorenzana’s classroom and remember, ‘Si, se puede.’ ‘Yes, you can.’”
United Amigos celebrated the “Si, se puede!/Yes, you can!” philosophy last Friday by wearing green and spreading the power of positive thinking and the importance of believing in yourself and continual striving for success.