Now in its second year, TLU’s project, ¡Sí Más!: Building Bridges with the Center For Mexican American Studies (CMAS), continues to enhance both the university’s and Seguin High School’s (SHS) commitment as Hispanic Serving Institutions.
Funded through a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Common Good Initiative, the Summer Bridge Program has provided 20 SHS the opportunity to take Introduction to Mexican American Studies the summer before their junior year and Mexican American Literature the summer before their senior year.
The hope, according to Dr. Jennifer Mata, director of TLU’s CMAS, is that after the students graduate from SHS and are admitted to TLU, they will be enrolled in a first-year Learning Community and Freshman Experience course that is paired with an English Composition I course. These course pairings are designed to provide the academic and social support many first-generation students need to ensure success in their first year of college.
Mata says the experience was designed to help SHS students understand they have a place within the university through the Summer Bridge Program.She also points out that academia isn’t always necessarily inclusive of all people.
As TLU sees more and more first-generation students coming in from bilingual, working class households, Mata says it’s crucial to offer courses or experiences they can connect with their own identity and bicultural struggle.
“I want them to learn to empower themselves,” she said. “We talk a lot about identity and how it relates to race, class, and gender. I hope this course has helped them learn who they are.”
Focusing on texts like George Washington Gomez, So Far from God, And The Earth Did Not Devour Him, and A Tongue in The Mouth of The Dying, students are reading materials not taught in Texas public schools.
For SHS senior Guadalupe Navariz, the experience has opened her eyes to events and local history she never knew happened, especially the struggle Mexican Americans faced and their role during the Civil Rights Movement.
“This program has really filled in the gaps of what’s left out in our textbooks,” Navariz said. “I’ve learned about where we were and what was happening to us. We’re often left out of the Civil Rights Movement. Even though there are still things going on that we need to fix, we can address them by using some of the strategies that may have gotten the older generations through it.”
SHS senior Orlando Cortez moved to Seguin from Mexico when he was 11.
“This class is really cool for me because I learned about Mexican history in Mexico before I moved here and now I’m learning about Mexican American history in the U.S.,” he said. “To see all of the movements and the fight for rights that went on here are really interesting to me.”
As president of TLU’s Mexican American Student Association, senior Amaris Diaz has enjoyed working with the class.
“It’s very cool to be part of their education,” Diaz said. “They’ll carry what they’re learning now through the rest of their life and use it as they go on to their careers. I like knowing I’ve been part of teaching the younger generation.”