Teen immigrants pursue greater representation

Danielle Middleton

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To address the need for more immigrant students in leadership positions at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), teachers and students are working to create the Student Immigrant Leadership Club (SILC), which will serve to provide resources for students in the immigrant community and opportunities for activism and advocacy.

Portuguese teacher Jane Sampaio and English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher Cheri Cluff have started SILC in order to discuss issues of interest to immigrant students at MVRHS as well as life after high school. The club has been a long time in the making, as students, teachers, and administrators have sought ways to help immigrant students transition into life at the high school. 

“We’ve been talking about how to engage immigrant students and their families more in school. That has been an ongoing conversation for at least four years,” said Ms. Cluff, who has been teaching ESL for the past five years at MVRHS in addition to co-teaching math, biology, and history in Portuguese. 

“The club has two purposes,” she said. “One is for student immigrants to develop their leadership skills and to think about the issues that are very specific to student immigrants at the school. The other purpose of the club is to give student immigrants a place to think about how they can affect the school community and make the school and community into what they want, and what they think would be good for the school, the community, and their family.” 

Whether that means attending college or entering the workforce, the club will aim to further provide resources for students as they look ahead to post-secondary plans.

“I think representation matters, especially on policy,” said senior class president Alex Rego. “There are decisions to be made in our school and our community, and I would look forward to student council and SILC possibly collaborating in the future.” 

The nation may feel more divided than ever, but SILC is helping to bridge cultures.

Junior Jhason De Miranda, a teacher’s assistant in an ESL biology class, believes there may be an even simpler solution.

“There are a lot of ESL students and I like the unity we have, but [immigrant students] already struggle with language and getting their voice out there,” he said, “so literally just start a conversation. Even if their English is bad, just find a bit of patience.”