Mentor program takes a look at heritage

A new project to help Latin American middle school students in the Tampa Bay area will allow students to become more familiar with their culture. The program, Engaging Latino Community for Education, gives the students opportunities to learn about their ancestors while being mentored.

The project is called “Cuentos de mi familia,” or “Stories of my family.” USF students team with Latino middle school students and create biographies of family members.

“The program gives students an opportunity to do research, write and plan something larger than themselves,” said USF history professor and head of the program, John McKiernan-Gonzalez.

While learning about their family, students develop skills needed for high school and college level courses through ENLACE, McKiernan-Gonzalez said.

The program is one of 14 derived from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in an attempt to support Hispanics in education.

McKiernan-Gonzalez said five students from Tampa Bay area middle schools, such as Dowdell, Eisenhower, Marshall and McLean, will be chosen as historians for the project and will keep documents of the students’ work. Each student will research and write biographies of their choice, and at the end an exhibit will display the projects.

“The project gives the students a chance to do research that no one has ever done before,” McKiernan-Gonzalez said. “It shows them that it’s easy to be unique.”

USF senior Walter Price, a volunteer for the project, said the project is beneficial not only for students but also for the volunteers. Price added that the program teaches students the basics of research and writing while learning about their families. He said he has learned more about Latin American cultures because of this experience.