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COUNTYWIDE FOCUS

VENTURA : Students Told of Bilingual Teacher Need

November 06, 1994|RODNEY BOSCH

Despite the perfect recipe for spending a Saturday afternoon outdoors--blue skies and warm temperatures--hundreds of Latino students instead chose to ponder their futures inside the classroom.

An estimated 300 students--most from area high schools and a few from community colleges--began arriving at Ventura College about 8 a.m. for the first Careers in Bilingual Education Conference.

Sponsored by the Ventura-Oxnard chapter of the California Assn. for Bilingual Education, the conference aimed to address the troubling shortage of bilingual teachers statewide.

"We are responding to that need," said Martha Hernandez, co-president of the association. "The overall goal is to provide career-planning opportunities in bilingual education for aspiring students in our community."

Throughout the morning, students and parents chose from among 10 sessions whose topics included teaching opportunities at all school levels, special education and assisting migrant workers. One session was titled, "How Do I Tell Papi I Want to Go to School and Not Get Married?"

"We wanted to focus on young Latinas who, because of cultural aspects, have a difficult time convincing their fathers that going to school is an option for them as women," Hernandez said.

At 1 p.m., the students packed into the cafeteria for a keynote speech by Oxnard City Councilman Andres Herrera, delivered in both Spanish and English. Herrera urged the students to cherish their cultural heritage and take advantage of opportunities that only education can provide.

"Make the change to remove the shackles, the chains," he said to rounds of applause.

The conference then headed outdoors to the cafeteria courtyard. Lunching on chile verde in the shade of an umbrella with her boyfriend, Sandra Cervantez, 18, said she was motivated by the day's proceedings.

"This really helps us open our minds," said Cervantez, who graduated last year from Channel Islands High School. "We can become something, and not be considered 'just another minority.' "

Her boyfriend, Robert Gonzalez, 17, said he wanted to join the Navy to become a pilot after graduating from Frontier High School.

"But now I might change my mind and go into teaching migrant workers," he said.

Cliff Rodrigues, a trustee with the Ventura Unified School District, said educators hope to make the conference an annual event.

"Maybe (the students) won't go into teaching," he said, "but it has them thinking."

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