For Maria Salguero, the opportunities presented by the second Denver Public Schools’ adult-literacy center for Spanish speakers mean the world of words is finally opening to her – and she plans to use her new skill to help others.
“I did not have the opportunity to go to school in El Salvador when I was young. I never learned how to read or write,” she said Monday, Feb. 13, at the official opening of Plaza Comunitaria (Community Plaza) adult-education center at Lake International School in Northwest Denver.
“Now, I am in my 60s and I can read! Thank you to everyone who has helped with Plaza Comunitaria. My goal is to be a volunteer for the community. I am so grateful.”
The Lake center is the second Plaza Comunitaria to open in a DPS school, following on the success of a center at Abraham Lincoln High School. The Mexican Consul in Denver supports the centers.
DPS Board Member Lisa Flores, who represents schools in Northwest Denver, said the centers support the district’s Denver Plan 2020 goal of building a Building a Foundation for Success in School. Children who are reading proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to graduate.
“By 2020, our goal is that 80% of our students are reading and writing proficiently by the third grade. We have a long way to go to meet this goal, particularly for our students in poverty and for our students of color,” Flores said.
“And we want and need the partnership of our parents to help us get there. If our parents are reading and writing proficiently, they can help their kids read and write proficiently.”
The first Plaza Comunitaria opened at Lincoln High School in Southwest Denver in 2015. Since the program began, approximately 300 parents with interrupted educations have expressed interest in the center, which offers a variety of courses including basic literacy skills and English as a Second Language.
Both centers use a combination of bilingual tutor-supported study groups and an online learning platform to help Spanish-speaking adults sharpen their literacy skills and recover elementary through middle school education credits. After completing levels 1-3, participants have the opportunity to continue community programs to improve their English skills and/or obtain their high school diploma, GED or degrees in higher learning.
At the Lake campus, classes began Feb. 8. Participants have access to Spanish-speaking tutors from 5:30-7:30 p.m., Mondays and Wednesdays. At Lincoln, tutors are available from 5:30-8:30 p.m., Tuesdays, and from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturdays.
“It takes a lot of courage for adults to decide they want to come back to school,” said Susana Cordova, DPS Deputy Superintendent. “It’s a wonderful example to their children that learning doesn’t stop when you leave the school doors.
“It is a demonstration that our families are working and striving to create a better life for themselves and for their children. They are positively influencing their kids as they pursue their own education.”