May 24, 2010
Hispanic business leaders inspire fifth-graders; Prof says ESL already have skills to succeed
Fifth-graders from English-as-a-second-language classes at Roosevelt, Fratt, Red Apple and Jefferson Lighthouse elementary schools took part in the third annual Hispanic Professional Tour on Monday.
The students met with nine Hispanic business leaders during the tour, which is designed to motivate the 10 and 11-year-olds as they head into middle school next year, said Kay Bedoian, an ESL teacher at Roosevelt Elementary.
Rodney Ramos (right), a professor of interpretation and translation at the Milwaukee Area Technical College, spoke to the students about the importance of education in getting a good-paying job when they get older. He told the students, most who are native Spanish speakers, that they already possess language skills that will help them when they get older.
He recalled moving to the United States when he was in seventh grade not knowing a single word of English. Ramos said he learned fast to avoid being sent back a year in school. One teacher told him if he spoke a word of Spanish in class she'd smack him with a ruler. He passed an English competency test just 25 days after moving to the U.S.
Ramos continued to learn English and went on to become a translator and then a professor. He tried to impress upon the students that learning English now will help them land high-paying jobs as adults. English-Spanish translators make $50 per hour, and people with strong language skills can earn between $100 and $300 per hour, if they finish their education, he said.
"Some skills you already have can be the key to controlling the future," Ramos told the group of about 40 students.
Ramos spoke to the fifth-graders at the Kurt Sports Complex, which is the new home of the Hispanic Community and Resource Center. Marie Black, head of the new center and of the Hispanic Business Alliance, organized the first Hispanic Professional Tour in 2007. She work with Bedoian on this year's tour.
Bedoian (left, with Ramos) said she was impressed with the powerful stories the speakers shared with the students. Lozano, of Insinkerator, shared he was first Hispanic supervisor Insinkerator in 70 years. The key to his success? He had a college degree while other applicants for the job did not.
"They shared really loving kinds of threads," Bedoian said.
Bedoian said she hopes to include more students in next year's professional tour and keep the annual event growing.
"I wish I had 100 students sitting in front of these speakers," she said.
Teachers leading student groups this year are Walter Robles and Rosa Tobias of Fratt Elementary; Stephanie Durphy and Bedoian of Roosevelt; Kristin Zimmerman of Red Apple; and Stacey Huizinga of Jefferson Lighthouse.