It's been really empowering to see kids come up; getting acclimated to a new language, getting acclimated to the city culture. You start to see their personalities a lot more. When there's a language barrier you can't really see who they are as individuals, so being able to see them get comfortable around me, it's been a really rewarding experience.
I work as an English Learners (EL) teacher at a small high school. It's great because it's an open door culture - there's a direct line from students to the principal. They feel very comfortable speaking out, whether it's something they want to see in the school or something that's happened to them or to a friend of theirs.
"Latinos Unidos" is my school's student organization, but it didn't exist before I started working there. Within the school community of EL learners you'll see Afro Latinos, indigenous Latinos, people who speak Garifuna or other indigenous languages, Caribbean students, etc. There's a lot of diversity within the community and it was causing a lot of rifts. Since I was working so deeply within the population, instead of a problem, I saw an opportunity to empower our EL students. So our team and the students spoke about the importance of coming together as a group, because outsiders are just going to say, "Look at all these Mexican kids." I told them it's up to them to come together. You are your best advocate. You are your best ally. As a result, it was really powerful for them to identify as Latinos Unidos. They decided they wanted to have a soccer team, because if there was an extracurricular that they were all interested in, then they could all feel more a part of the school fabric. To start, the students were able to negotiate with administrators for the use of the school field one day a week for a pickup game. That was a big accomplishment that they achieved and advocated for on their own.
New Orleans is already such a diverse place - we're a unique blend of so many cultures historically. So with this new wave of immigrants coming into our city, it's like a metaphor. We have this beautiful tapestry, we're just adding some more color, a new design. I feel like that enhances and makes our city a more exciting place to be. We're one of the most exciting cities in the country, and we're just adding to that!