Port Washington UFSD’s ENL Department – paving a path of leadership and advocacy

Port Washington UFSD’s ENL Department – paving a path of leadership and advocacy
Paul D. Schreiber students Benjamin Michea, Ariana Zari, and Dliton Benitez attend the Puerto Rican Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute in Albany. (Photo courtesy of the Port Washington Union Free School District)

Port Washington School District’s ENL Department (Pre-K-12) in collaboration with the Long Island Regional Bilingual Education Resource Network (L.I. RBERN), implemented the 2023 Angelo Del Toro Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute (PR/HYLI).

This program is paving a path of leadership and advocacy in our English Language Learners.

PR/HYLI affords Hispanic/Latino youth in 11th and 12th grades greater insight into the dynamic nature of state government and offers participants the opportunity to develop leadership skills for civic engagement and advocacy in their respective communities.

The L.I. RBERN trained the Long Island student delegation of the 2023 Statewide PR/HYLI. Students selected as PR/HYLI Long Island delegates participated in leadership development workshops, a mock assembly session as well as other civic engagement activities.

The L.I. RBERN invited Port Washington UFSD to nominate four Hispanic/Latino high school junior and senior students as candidates to attend the PR/HYLI training sessions. The student candidates who were nominated and approved to participate included D. Benitez, B. Michea, I. Palacios, and A. Zari.

Three of the four students were selected to participate in the in-person institute in Albany, which took place on March 11-13, where they participated in leadership and public advocacy workshops and were delegates at the Mock Legislative Assembly held at the New York State Capitol in Albany.

The Long Island Delegation was also acknowledged by Deputy Speaker Phil Ramos at Monday’s Legislative Session.

Throughout the event, the students showcased their knowledge and dedication to public advocacy and their ability to make an impact on their communities. They engaged in passing bills in advocacy of immigrant students and English language learners. Some of the bills they worked on included:

  • Prohibiting and regulating the discovery and disclosure of immigration status; repealer.
  • Establishing the right to legal counsel in immigration court proceedings and provides for the administration thereof.
  • Requiring school districts to have diversity officers to develop methods to diversify the personnel of the school district and to recommend changes to district policies and practices to reduce racial disparities in hiring school district employees, particularly teachers; requires boards of education to annually report information regarding such policies and practices to the department of education; and requires the department of education to annually report such information to the legislature.
  • Creating a set of media literacy standards for students in grades K-12 which focuses on internet safety, civility and digital citizenship.

“Their hard work and commitment have paid off, and they have gained valuable skills that will help them to be leaders and advocates in the future,” Brendan Klein, ENL social studies teacher at Paul D. Schreiber High School, said. “This was a great experience for our students, and we are proud of their achievements and the hard work they have put in to get to this point. Their commitment to excellence and their passion for making a positive change in the world is truly inspiring.”

“I am so proud of our students and their advocacy for topics that impact English language learners and immigrant students in the school community,” Priscilla Zárate, director of ENL Pre-K-12, said. “I hope to see these students as future leaders of their communities where they give voice to the voiceless, and bring necessary policy changes that have a positive impact on the education of Long Island school districts through the diversification of school personnel, curriculum, and instructional practices.”

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