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Students stay in school to send positive message

Posted: May 2, 2008 12:45 a.m.
Updated: July 3, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Part of Golden Valley High School senior Stefany Mendoza's project about the American Dream spoke about the country she is in and what it represents to her. last year, many students walked out of classes on May Day to protest an immigration bill.

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Instead of walking out of school to protest the nation's immigration laws Thursday, Latino students at Golden Valley High School decided to send a more positive message this year.

Students in Christina van Langenberg's American government class for English language learners set up a walk-through gallery in the school's library, showcasing the contributions of Latino Americans to society and describing themselves, their career goals and their experiences as immigrants.

"We felt like we weren't sending the right message before, so we decided to stay in school to show that we're not troublemakers, that we're just trying to make a difference," said Golden Valley senior Carlos Corona, who moved to the United States from Mexico five years ago.

Corona hopes to someday become a chef, and the poster he made to share with students walking through the gallery talks about his search for the "American Dream."

"My search however is constantly interrupted by opposing sides who consider me inferior, simply because I was born in another country," his poster reads. "I've come to prove them wrong. ... I've come to prove to them that I can be somebody."

The event was held to promote awareness of immigration laws and rights by having the students demonstrate their value to society, as well as to encourage other immigrants to stay in school that day, van Langenberg said.

"These are all seniors who are about to graduate, so the goal is to encourage other (immigrant) kids to work hard, stay in school and get to this point," van Langenberg said. "For those kids who are not immigrants, the goal is to educate them about the immigrant experience."

Senior Stefany Mendoza said that last year she walked out of school on May 1 as a protest, but it wasn't a good experience.

"We walked to city hall and we talked about racism and immigration laws, but it wasn't good - I wouldn't do it again," said Mendoza, who moved to California from Mexico three years ago. "After we did that nothing happened, except that we all got in trouble."

Mendoza wants to be a professional photographer, and her main goal right now is to get into college.

"I want to let people know that, no matter what you want to be, you have to just go for it," Mendoza said. "If you want to do it, you can do it."

As students walked through the "Celebrate Immigration" gallery, they read the immigrant students' posters and asked questions about their lives.

"I think this is a more positive way for them to communicate their opinions. The walk-out didn't seem very effective, but I think this will have a positive effect," said senior Ivonne Arias. "I liked hearing their experiences, because it gave me a better understanding of what they're going through as immigrants."

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