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Migrant students celebrate English-language proficiency

Hundreds of migrant high school students celebrated their English-language proficiency at the annual Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Multilingual and Migrant Education Programs dinner and awards ceremony Tuesday night.

“I just want to do great, I want to become a doctor, help my parents, and tell them they don’t have to work no more”, says Araceli Vivar, one of hundreds of students in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District to be “re-classified” this year as proficient in English-language studies.

“Our students are required to take annual exams to prove their proficiency in English, both linguistically and academically, and that is no easy feat”, says SMJUHSD program administrator Maria Larios-Horton.

It was a special night for these multilingual students and their families, teachers and the school district that gives them the chance to advance their education.

“The opportunity for students to earn that is a difficult one”, says SMJUHSD Superintendent Mark Richardson, “it gives them the opportunity to advance to other course work in high school, to attempt to get on track to four year universities and continuing their education opportunities down the road, so its a great achievement for our kids tonight.”

The English-language proficiency celebration comes at a time when illegal immigration and possible deportation stokes fear in the lives of the students and their families.

“Its a scary time”, says Araceli Vivar who came from Oaxaca state in Mexico with her parents, “in a way I’m mad because everybody takes Mexicans to be bad people for emigrating but they don’t know the Mexican side of the story, because we come here for a better future, because Mexico is a great country but we come here because this place has a lot of opportunities.”

This was the third annual celebration dinner recognizing student achievement in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Multilingual and Migrant Education Programs.

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