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From Reporter to Teacher, Carol Kloss McClellan Enjoys Her New Challenge as an Inner City Public High School Instructor

March 25, 2012 3 comments

When I discovered that an Omaha television news reporter had left that field to teach at an inner city public high school I just had to catch up with the former reporter and get the story of what led her to make the transition and what it’s been like for her.  The long time reporter who made the move is Carol Kloss McClellan and I tell her story here.  She teaches creative writing at Omaha South High Magnet School.  Some of her students participated in a school poetry slam competition and are gearing up for Omaha’s Louder Than a Bomb festival in mid-April.  Over the winter Louder Than a Bomb co-founder Kevin Coval and some of the slam poets featured in the documentary by the same name dropped in on Carol’s creative writing class and she and her students were pretty stoked by the whole experience.  Watch for my future post about the Louder Than a Bomb festival.

 Carol in her reporting days

 

From Reporter to Teacher, Carol Kloss McClellan Enjoys Her New Challenge as an Inner City Public High School Instuctor

©by Leo Adam Biga

Published in El Perico

 

Leaving the life of a television news reporter for a public high school teaching job is not something second-year South High Magnet English and creative writing instructor Carol Kloss McClellan entered lightly in 2010.

After all, she distinguished herself as an investigative news reporter at KETV, winning Nebraska Broadcasters, Associated Press and Edward R. Murrow awards. But as she reached middle-age and TV news gathering became less satisfying she felt called to leave one challenging field for another.

“It had been on my mind for a long time. I took a lot of education courses as a (University of Michigan) undergrad,” says the Detroit native. She recalls seeing a TV news colleague make the transition from reporting to teaching and thinking, “That looks like something I would really enjoy.” But years went by without acting on the impulse. Meanwhile, a newsroom romance with then-KETV photographer now-attorney Mike McClellan led to marriage and a family. When the couple’s two daughters entered their late teens she finally got serious about switching careers. She enrolled in the College of Saint Mary‘s Fast Track-to-Teaching program, earning her master’s degree and teaching certificate.

Beyond her studies and student teaching, she felt the same skill set that helped her succeed in TV news would make her effective in the classroom. Cultivating sources and researching-writing-reporting stories is not so different than preparing-delivering lesson plans. Besides, she says, “I’m a people person, I’m a communicator, all those kinds of things. And I’m a mom, so I’ve got all that experience, too.”

Louder Than a Bomb’s Kevin Coval visited Carol’s class

 

 

Abandoning the new biz wasn’t as hard as you might imagine.

“It got to the point where it just wasn’t as much fun anymore. I left on very good terms and I had a wonderful job, but the opportunities to do some of the really good stories we used to be able to sink our teeth into, when we had the resources to sit on something if we needed to, were drying up.

“It used to be could travel to get a story. My photographer-producer Cathy Beeler and I were like a little team. Some of the stuff we would get into was so much fun. Those opportunities just weren’t there anymore. And then when I went back to general assignment I was like, OK, I need a new challenge. I just couldn’t go out on another snow storm story or another shooting and knock on some victim’s family front door. I had to move on.”

Does she miss the buzz of the newsroom and the thrill of breaking stories?

“I honestly don’t. I mean, I miss people I worked with. But I see a lot of them still. I enjoyed it but my life is so full right now there’s not hardly room to miss anything. And its just a whole new world.”

Carol, South principal Cara Riggs, and poetry slam students, ©photo KVNO News

 

 

That world is even tougher than the one she left behind.

“It’s hard, it’s really hard, it’s so demanding,” she says of teaching. “There’s so much to it with the lesson plans and classroom management and this whole new grading system. It’s never ending.”

The virtual audience she had as a TV reporter has been replaced by a live one subject to the distractions that come with raging hormones and identity issues.

“Most of the kids are great and want to be here, but standing up in front of the class it can feel like you’re a standup comedian having to deal with a couple of hecklers.  It’s like you’re trying to serve the majority of kids who really want to get a good education and then you’ve got a couple of kids causing a ruckus.”

She’s had to learn how to handle disruptive students within the constraints of a public school setting.

“Your heart just goes out and you have to learn to let some things go and that’s I think the hardest thing for a new teacher – to figure out what to let go of. You can only do so much, you’ve got to make the best of it and move on. It’s just this constant balancing act.”

She admits “tears” of self-doubt her first year when she often wondered, “I don’t know if I can do this. Here I am a woman in my mid-50s reinventing myself and coming from an environment where I know the game and I’m a pro to having to start all over again.” But she’s sure she made the right choice, saying, unequivocally, “I have no regrets.”

The very challenge, she says, “is what keeps you alive, so even though it’s a hard thing, it’s a good thing,” adding, “Some days are better than others as you’re trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t work, and it’s not what you expect, and that’s what makes it exciting, too.”

Moments like her creative writing students jamming at a December poetry slam to enthusiastic cheers of students and faculty “are what keep you coming back,” she says.

Indigenous Music Celebrated in Omaha Conservatory of Music Nebraska Roots Concert


An arts organization with a great reputation for quality that deserves more recognition and support is the Omaha Conservatory of Music.  The following story previewed a recent concert by the conservatory celebrating music of the Omaha Nation that brought students from area high schools together with students from St. Augustine Mission School on the Winnebago Reservation and Omaha Indian elders.

 

 

Maria Newman

 

 

Indigenous Music Celebrated in Omaha Conservatory of Music Nebraska Roots Concert

©by Leo Adam Biga

Published in The Reader (www.thereader.com)

 

Indigenous themes take center stage for a March 24 Omaha Conservatory of Music concert that culminates the school’s Nebraska Roots: Native American Music of the Omaha Indian Tribe curriculum. The program is also the conservatory’s annual Winter Festival Orchestra showcase.

Various ensembles featuring conservatory students and youth players from  schools near and far will perform along with Omaha Indian tribal elders and students from St. Augustine Mission School on the Winnebago (Neb.) Reservation. Premiering are two pieces for orchestral strings written by OCM faculty member Danny Sarba that he adapted from Native tunes. One is the “Flag Song.” The other is “The Appreciation Song.”

A featured presentation is the Winter Festival Orchestra performing a movement from the OCM-commissioned and Pulitzer Prize and Grawemeyer Award nominated “La pert de la Terre” by noted violinist and composer Maria Newman. A member of a Hollywood dynasty of film composers, she drew on Native peace pipe melodies for her new work.

“She’s a stunning composer and she’s credited a pretty stunning work,” says OCM executive director Ruth Meints.

 

 

David Barg

 

 

Guest conductor is David Barg, whom Meints describes as “an internationally known conductor” with “unorthodox methods” for getting the best out of young players.

The 7 p.m. program at Joslyn Art Museum’s Witherspoon Concert Hall is free and open to the public.

Meints says the diverse concert expresses the nonprofit’s mission to build artistic communities through education and performance. “We’re always trying to do collaborative things that build community,” she says. “It should be a pretty full program. It’s kind of like all worlds are colliding.”

The concert caps a year’s exploration of “the first music of Nebraska.” Tribal elders Calvin Harlan and Pierre Merrick came to the conservatory, located in new digs at the Westside Community Center, to demonstrate the traditional way Omaha Indian music is performed. It’s all part of OCM’s effort to archive the music. A drum circle led by Harlan and Merrick was recorded at the OCM studio. The March concert will also be professionally recorded. CDs containing the recordings will eventually be produced with a book of the transcribed music.

The idea to study, perform and record indigenous music has its roots in a 1893 book that Meints, a music educator, stumbled upon years ago. A Study of Omaha Indian Music by ethno-musicologist Alice Fletcher is a compilation of Omaha Indian chants and ceremonial music she recorded and transcribed. With Omaha Indian music a largely oral tradition and few Native speakers left, Meints thought the time right to celebrate and perpetuate traditional Native material and make it the focus of cross-cultural exchange.

She says elders have shared with students stories about the meanings behind the songs and students have performed for them selections from the new compositions by Sarba. Sarba spent time on the res and in Omaha recording-transcribing the elders’ music much as Fletcher did more than a century ago.

 

 

 

 

Ruth Meints
Ruth Meints

 

 

Conservatory teacher Cody Jorgensen is doing an outreach program with St. Augustine Mission students, including 2nd and 4th graders coming to sing for the concert.

Newman, a guest artist at the OCM summer institute, responded strongly when Meints asked her to conceive a piece echoing Native sounds. Her “La perte de la Terra” premiered at last year’s institute and has since been performed widely across the U.S.. Fletcher’s book became Newman’s inspiration. “I found that absolutely fascinating,” she says. “Just as Bela Bartok did with Romanian and Hungarian folk music and all the vernacular music of those peoples, Alice Fletcher did with Omaha Indian Nation music. Our country has for so many years been obsessed with European music, so I think what she did was really significant.”

Until working on the commission Newman says her exposure to Indian music was “in a cliche manner” informed by her own family’s Hollywood pedigree.

“We here in Hollywood have often been bombarded with real cliches of cowboys and Indians and that sort of thing, and so I was petrified to tell you the truth when I received this commission that I was going to offend somehow with my composition. I had not studied Indian music to the extent that I could understand what was going on with the small variations in tonality, intonation, musical contour. All of those things became so much more apparent when I began to study the Alice Fletcher book.

“I really worked hard to try to figure out how to use the pentatonic or five-note scale used by the Indian nations. I didn’t want to take one of those chants Alice Fletcher had on paper and arrange it. What I wanted to do was write something completely original. I was desperately trying to run away from cliche. I sought to create something that was somehow infused rhythmically and harmonically with the essence of those materials.”

Newman says “La perte de la Terra” translates literally as “A Part of the Earth” but that to French Indians it means “Lost Pieces of the Earth,” which expresses more closely what she means to evoke.

“I have a really great respect for our Native American cultures. A lot of blood was given by the Native American people in the white man taking over this continent. The blood they shed went into what made our country. Things like the Lewis and Clark Expedition and Louisiana Purchase also formed the country. These lost pieces of the earth came together as a puzzle and connected so that we could now hopefully join our nations and become one great nation.”

For more on the conservatory, visit http://www.omahacm.org.

Jose and Linda Garcia Find a New Outlet for their Magnificent Obsession in the Mexican American Historical Society of the Midlands

March 25, 2012 1 comment

Jose Francisco Garcia and his wife Linda Garcia are two of the most intellectually curious people I know.  They are quintessential searchers always open to discovery and they love nothing more than sharing what they learn with others.  Their great passion is preserving and presenting Mexican history and culture and they do this in a variety of ways, including their work through the Mexican American Historical Society of the Midlands, which replaced their Las Artes Cutlural Center. Linda is a librarian, storyteller, and artist.   Jose is a photographer.  Both are amateur historians.  This story appeared on the eve of  the organization’s opening a couple years ago and gives a glimpse of the couple’s far ranging interests and of their historical society’s diverse programming.

©photo, mahsmidlands.org

Jose and Linda Garcia Find a New Outlet for their Magnificent Obsession in the Mexican American Historical Society of the Midlands

©by Leo Adam Biga

Published in El Perico

Jose and Linda Garcia spend every day immersed in Mexican-American heritage. After devoting years to their Las Artes Cultural Center, the couple recently closed it. Their magnificent obsession with Latino art and history is now expressed through the Mexican American Historical Society of the Midlands.

He’s executive director and she’s secretary of the new nonprofit in the Mercado building, 4913 South 25th Street. The Garcias bring passion and expertise, along with a collection of photographs, art objects and books, to carry-out the mission of building awareness of Mexican American achievement. Behind-the-scenes, preservation will be a major focus. Publicly, the community will be invited to exhibitions, lectures, art classes, film screenings and other cultural events.

Unlike Las Artes, which the Garcias ran alone as a labor of love, the society has a formal board, its operations and programs funded by grants and donations. A $10,000 Futuro Latino Fund grant and a $5,000 South Omaha turnback tax grant have helped get the new organization up and running.

Why start over again with a new institution?

She said it’s an opportunity to employ their collection as a teaching tool on a new level, reaching more folks. Besides, she said, “somebody’s gotta do it.”

Linda, a storyteller and artist, is a retired children’s librarian. Jose is a Union Pacific retiree.

Linda Garcia, ©photo by Jose Garcia
Jose Francisco Garcia

“The reason we have a collection is we use it,” she said. “Anything we do, whether design an exhibit or give a talk, we do a lot of research. We go out there and dig.”

Her hunger to learn more about her cultural heritage and to disseminate it was inspired by her first visit to Mexico. The then-College of St. Mary senior was exposed to many facets of her people’s art and history not taught in school. This identity discovery was part of her immersion in the Chicano movement.

“What was awakened was the art, the literature, the becoming who you are as a Chicano,” she said. “I’m not really Mexican, I’m an American, but the combination made me a Chicano, which means I seek knowledge. But it’s not enough to stop there, you must transmit it to other people and share it. It’s not enough to collect and learn and keep it all to ourselves. That’s the reason for this place.”

Jose, originally from Kansas City, Mo., served three years in the U.S. Army, including one long year spent near Saigon during the height of the Vietnam War. Back home, he went from job to job, always snapping pictures on the side.

Mexican Mutual Aid Society, ©photo mahsmidlands.org

He moved to Omaha in the 1970s. It was some time before he and Linda got together, each drawn to the other’s curiosity and drive.

“Aesthetic quality is what she’s taught me,” Jose said of Linda. His digital pics documenting South Omaha are posted on picasweb.google.com/razatimes.

“One thing I really learned from Jose,” said Linda, “is to speak out and not be this timid girl. I saw the respect people would give him because he would ask for what he wanted, and now I’ve learned to ask for what I want. We really blend. I’m the artist, he’s more the corporate type. We like to spend time together.”

“We’ve learned to become old souls together,” said Jose.

“We want to leave a legacy,” she said, “but it’s more than that, it’s trying to teach the community they also have a legacy and they also have a responsibility to carry their family traditions and to know how to take care of photographs and keepsakes. We want them to know what they have is really valuable, even if only to family or forbearers.”

It’s all about self-determination, said Jose.

The historical society goes public with these upcoming events

September 15, Mexican Independence Day, 10 p.m. greeting, 11 p.m. El Grito de Dolores

September 16-19, Bicentennial of Mexican Independence, exhibit/lecture, 6 p.m.

October 1, Grand opening, Las Americas South O City Center, 6 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. program

A website will soon launch.

After October 1, the facility will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday. Admission is free. Donations accepted. Memberships available.

The historical society number is 884-1910.

UPDATE:  The organization does have a website, http://www.mahsmidlands.org.

African Presence in Spanish America Explored in Three Presentations

March 25, 2012 1 comment

 

 

Jose Francisco Garcia and his wife Linda Garcia are two of the most intellectually curious people I know.  They are quintessential searchers always open to discovery and they love nothing more than sharing what they learn with others.  Their great passion is preserving and presenting Mexican history and culture and they do this in a variety of ways, including their work through the Mexican American Historical Society of the Midlands, which replaced their Las Artes Cutlural Center. Linda is a librarian, storyteller, and artist.   Jose is a photographer.  Both are amateur historians. One of Jose’s many projects is the subject of this story – a series of presentations last winter that saw him and Walter Brooks examine the African Presence in Spanish America.  Look for a story I did about Jose and Linda and their magnificent obsession to be posted here soon.

 

 

 

 

African Presence in Spanish America Explored in Three Presentations

©by Leo Adam Biga

Published in El Perico

A collaborative public education series by the Mexican American Historical Society of the Midlands and the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation will examine the African Presence in Spanish America.

Three presentations are scheduled:

Saturday, Feb. 25, 2 p.m., Malcolm X Memorial Foundation, 3448 Evans St.

Tuesday, Feb. 28, 6 p.m., W. Dale Clark Library, 215 So. 15th St.

Wednesday, Feb. 29, 6 p.m., Mexican American Historical Society of the Midlands, 4925 So. 25th St.

Historical Society curator Jose Francisco Garcia, the series co-organizer and facilitator with Malcolm X administrative director Walter Brooks, says the power-point programs “will emphasize the growing understanding of history between Spanish, African and indigenous peoples over the past five centuries,” adding, “we will highlight how Africans significantly enriched the cultural life, language, cuisine, music and dance in Mexico, Peru and Colombia.”

Garcia says the Feb. 26 program will discuss how the slave trade brought many Africans to the Spanish Americas. In North America, runaway slaves, some using the underground railroad, entered Mexico, where an anti-slavery attitude prevailed. Runaway slave settlements in Mexico were called palenques.

 

 

African Presence in Spanish America

Jose Francisco Garcia
Walter Brooks

 

Much of Garcia’s research focuses on Mexico, whose African presence is well detailed. In the early 17th century runaway slave-turned-freedom fighter Gasper Yanga led a revolt that resulted in the Spanish establishing a free city in Veracruz that still bears his name. Other black enclaves remain in Southern Mexico.

Early blacks in Mexico were not all slaves. Some were explorers, others were hired laborers. An independence movement leader, Jose María Morelos y Pavon, was mulatto, as was Mexico’s second president, Vicente Guerrero, who officially abolished slavery in 1822.

Whether Africans fled or migrated to Mexico, they contributed to the cultural milieu and its maze of influences. That infusion continued through the generations until it’s become so pervasive it’s been obscured.

“Costa Chico, a territory in the southern part of Mexico, is where the majority of pure African, runaway slaves settled,” says Garcia. “It’s where the population is a little more African in appearance than anywhere else in Mexico. But they all have Spanish names and they all speak Spanish and they know very little about their African ancestry – until they play their music and sing their songs and eat their food. And that’s not only true of them but of Mexicans too. Half of the cuss words in Mexico come from Africa.”

Garcia and Brooks, longtime community activists who are also 2nd district trustees with the Nebraska State Historical Society, will contrast African settlements and influences in other nations with the immersive African-Latino remix found in many U.S. urban centers, most notably Miami.

The Feb. 28 program will explore “the cultural implications of how the African presence has impacted music, language and overall affected the arts, the food, the culture and the traditions of these societies,” he says. The Feb. 29 program, he says, “will look at where these populations are now and what is happening to provide them with a sense of identity and how contemporary culture is facing the reality the African presence in Spanish America is formidable.”

Garcia says the truth is no Spanish society is untouched by the African imprint, thus no discussion of Spanish culture, history or heritage can be considered without acknowledging this vibrant strain.

“The African presence is the third root,” he says. “Those who know history know that Spanish society and culture have been developed from three roots – the indigenous, the Spanish and the African. This created the mestizo, the bastards, the half-bloods, the Cimarrons, the mulattos, all those peoples that were a mixture of all of these three roots.”

 

 

 

 

His interest in the subject was sparked in exploring his own Chicano roots.

“As I was trying to get my feel on history, on my identity, the African presence just kept coming up. We’re part of the effects of world history, and to this very day we’re marrying that effect, that mescal, that mix..”

The results of the cross-cultural immersions can be seen in sport.

“I’m a great baseball fan, so I’m aware of the Spanish influence in baseball. When Sammy Sosa broke on the scene, I asked, ‘Who is this guy who looks black but has a Spanish name and speaks Spanish?’ Only he speaks a different Spanish.”

Sosa’s homeland, the Dominican Republic, much like all the Caribbean nations, including Cuba, boast an Afro-Latino lineage that permeate the culture.

Garcia says the sheer demographics of the America’s point to African and Spanish heritage groups as the dominant populations, if not economically, than culturally and socially. Black and brown people, he suggests, have shared interests and agendas that if solidified could wield political power.

Ultimately, he says, “I’m doing this to help people understand that just because you’re Mexican doesn’t mean you’re not an African-Mexican, just because you’re a Colombian doesn’t mean you’re not an African-Colombian. It’s so complex. Just because you’ve learned to call us Latinos doesn’t mean that’s right.” He wants people to appreciate their similarities and differences in this intertwined web.

“There will always be something that will set every culture aside and make it unique and make it characteristically human. The problem comes when you shut your eyes from these differences and you make believe a fantasy world exists.”

Admission is $5 for students and $3 for seniors at the Historical Society and the Malcolm X Center and free with a donated food item at the library.


Grassroots Leadership Development Program Provides Opportunities for Students

March 25, 2012 9 comments

 

Here’s a story about a long-standing program in Omaha that exposes Latinos to leadership development opportunities.  The several week Grassroots Leadership Development Program designed by the United States Leadership Institute based in Chicago is implemented by organizations across the nation.  In Omaha’s it was offered for many years by a local entrepreneur and philanthropist, Robert Campos, who more or less paid for it out of his own pocket.  More recently it’s been offered under the auspices of the Omaha Public Schools, though funding comes from grants and donations.  Where the program in Omaha used to serve people of all ages it’s now focused on seniors from the district’s seven high schools.  Students who display leadership potential are recommended for the program by educators.  Participants who successfully complete the nine-week program, which introduces them to local, county, and school district government leaders, attend a recognition dinner in their honor and go to Chicago for the USHLI Conference, where they get to meet program graduates from around the country and listen to inspirational stories by presenters.  Program facilitators encourage students to go onto college and most do.  Co-faciliator Sagrario “Charo” Rangel is held in high regard by the students.  Look for a profile I did on her to be posted here soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Grassroots Leadership Development Program Provides Opportunities for Students

©by Leo Adam Biga

Published in El Perico

 

Students completing the Grassroots Leadership Development Program through the Omaha Public Schools were rewarded with an all expense paid trip to Chicago to attend the Feb. 16-19 United States Hispanic Leadership Institute Conference.

Seventy seven senior graduates from all seven OPS high schools attended the conference at the downtown Sheraton. Adult chaperones accompanied the students, who represented South (31),  Bryan  (21) Burke (15), Central (7). Benson (1), North (1) and Northwest (1).

At the conference students met peer graduates from other states and heard motivational speakers share personal stories about overcoming obstacles.

Sagrario “Charo” Rangle, an OPS Educational Accountability Office administrator and co-facilitator of the program with Toni Hernandez, says Omaha had, as usual, one of the larger contingents at the annual event.

The USHLI program got its start in Omaha in 1986 under local entrepreneur Robert Campos, who ran it for two decades before turning it over to OPS four years ago. Rangel says OPS does not sponsor the program. Instead, its support comes from Futuro Latino Fund grants and various corporate and civic donations.

Several local Latino leaders are graduates, including Cristina Castro-Matukewicz (Wells Fargo), Maria Vazquez (Metropolitan Community College) and Paco Fuentes (South Omaha Boys & Girls Club). Rangel is herself a graduate. Some of the earliest graduates are parents of today’s students.

 

Omaha Grassroots Leadership Development Program students on the way to the USHLI conference in Chicago

 

 

 

Rangel says some 320 students have graduated the program since 2009. Participants are shown the inner workings of city, county and school government in  the hope they will pursue higher education and community service. Participants attend nine three-hour fall sessions that introduce them to elected and appointed officials, such as Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle and OPS Superintendent John Mackiel. Students ask leaders about their roles. Leaders hear youth concerns.

Rangel says, “The Grassroots Leadership Development Program is specifically for seniors that want to learn more about civic engagement and city-county-school government.” She says students come away empowered they have “a voice” in the system. She says some students use the program as a networking resource and arrange to shadow local leaders or invite officials to speak to their class or community group. Others make presentations at elementary and middle schools to encourage children to excel in the classroom. Many volunteer at local agencies.

The goal, she says, is to let students know they can be leaders in their school, neighborhood, community or workplace.

Students who demonstrate leadership potential are nominated for the program. To participate, students must be in good academic standing but they don’t necessarily need a high GPA. In fact, Rangel says,”it’s those students on the margins I think we’re most surprised by because they are leaders in their own right. It’s just that maybe one time along the way they may have gotten off the path, and so this is great way to get them back on track. We’ve had several students like that who said, ‘This is the shot in the arm I needed.'”

The program is also a resource for students and families in preparing for college.

Rangel says, “We visit with students about the importance of going on to college, we work with parents on financial aid, we give the students all kinds of information about scholarship opportunities and we have workshops to help them complete the forms. We also monitor students’ grades, attendance, behavior. We want to make sure these are students that recognize the importance of this wonderful opportunity.

“We do whatever we can to give them a leg up.”

 

A student session at the USHLI Conference

 

 

 

A January recognition dinner is followed by the February conference, which Rangel says energizes students.

“They come back extremely inspired and motivated to do more in their education and to help others. The conference itself is all about servant leadership, and so they get to know it’s not just about them – it’s about service to others.”

Rafael Guiterrez, a 2012 legacy graduate whose older brother Gabriel preceded him in the program, says the experience “inspired me to take my education to the next level.” The South High senior plans studying criminal justice at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He doesn’t want to stop at a bachelor’s degree but is eying a masters and a doctorate. A volunteer at the Intercultural Senior Center and a mentor at South, he says he’s learned that when it comes to doing things in his community he can “take the lead” rather than waiting for someone else to.

Alejandra Aguilar, a sophomore at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, graduated in 2010 but remains active as a Grassroots volunteer. “That’s just a way of us giving back to our community,” says Aguilar. “We’re the future and as Latinos we need to have our voice be heard, and to do that we need to go to college and be successful.” The dual political science-Latin American Studies major and Next Generation Leadership scholarship awardee has her sights set on a career in law. “One of the major things I learned is to never give up. Sometimes we don’t want to but we settle for less. I learned there’s nothing you can’t do if you want to do it.”

For Rangel, the satisfaction comes in seeing graduates like these paying it forward.

“We have a good following of students who come back year to year to help us. Not only are they learning these skills but they are putting them into place when they go onto college. They become mentors, they get involved in student organizations. That’s pretty cool to see. That makes it all worth it.”

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