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Sal Güereña: Bilingual Students Help Parents Bridge Digital Divide at Dos Pueblos High School

A new group of bilingual Dos Pueblos High School students, “Los Techies,” is helping parents bridge the digital divide while also making connections that extend beyond the keyboard.

Twenty such students are providing one-to-one technical assistance to Spanish-speaking parents taking the first of two computer classes for parents that the Goleta school is offering this year.

As it turns out, the impacts from this experience are going far beyond just equipping parents to use a computer.

While some of these students are long-term English learners, most of them are reclassified former English learners. Some of them are in the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy, most are in the AVID (Advancement through Individual Determination) program, but all of them are excited about helping parents learn to use computers.

This experience is helping the students forge a cohesive group and they are gaining a stronger sense of belonging at school. Some of the students' own parents are taking the class, and this is creating a bonding experience for both parents and students.

All high schools in the Santa Barbara Unified School District require 60 hours of community service for students to graduate. The fact that most of these DP student "techies" have already far exceeded their quota of community service hours gives some insight into their motivation.

The students say that volunteering with the parents gives them much personal satisfaction. They look forward to coming to the weekly class. Humans are designed for community and for relationships. This is real to them. This is life.

Talking to these students, here is what you hear, "I want to do this because these are just like my own parents," and, "it's fun doing this, it feels good to hear parents thank us for helping them."

"For me the class is going slow but my mom really loves this class," said one of the student aides whose mother is taking the class. "She is learning, she really is into it and now she is into the computer at home. She's even checking my grades on EDU!"

In the tradition of their Back to School Night language outreach to serve parents at district schools, beginning in January, all 20 of these DP students have volunteered to travel cross-town once a week to Adelante Charter School on Santa Barbara's Lower Eastside. There they'll be helping Principal Juanita Hernandez provide one-to-one assistance to her school's parents who also want to learn to use computers.

United Parents/Padres Unidos (UPPU), a local nonprofit parent advocacy group, organized the DP class as well as the second start-up class at Adelante School. According to UPPU leaders, Spanish-speaking parents need computer training as part of the roll out of the Common Core State Standards. Its technology trainers, Ana Huynh and Carlos Martinez, will lead the Adelante class.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for our DP students," said Linda Güereña, DPHS' bilingual community coordinator. "These students want to believe in something bigger than themselves. This gives them an esprit de corps and a feeling that they have something good to give back to the community."

— Sal Güereña is an educational advocate representing United Parents/Padres Unidos (UPPU). The opinions expressed are his own.

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