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Albuquerque Public Schools Add Ethnic Studies to High School Curriculum

by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang /
Students from Columbia University mentor high school and younger students on New Mexico's Native American communities via a program called AlterNative which aims to reduce the drop-out rate and encourage college enrollment.John Makely / NBC News

Albuquerque Public Schools will launch a new ethnic studies program for all 13 of its high schools beginning August 2017, according to Albuquerque Journal. Courses with Hispanic-American, African-American, Native-American, and Asian-American content will be offered as English and social studies elective options for juniors and seniors.

“I was a high school dropout,” Emma Sandoval, a member of local community activism group Families United for Education, told NBC News. “Ethnic studies and community engagement played a huge role in getting me back into the classroom and on to college. I always felt like I just didn’t belong in schools, and seeing my identity and culture reflected in my education made me want to make changes in my community. I owe my current success to those that helped me see myself, a young woman of color, and my culture, as scholarly.”

Currently, only three Albuquerque high schools offer ethnic studies courses, including Chicano Studies, Mexican-American literature, and Native American studies. Last December, Families United for Education approached the Albuquerque Board of Education to advocate for ethnic studies courses across the district. Last week, about 40 teachers and community members came together for a three-day workshop to begin planning the curriculum, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Albuquerque’s population is 46.7 percent Latino or Hispanic, 42.1 percent non-Hispanic white, 4.6 percent Native American and Alaskan Native, 4.6 percent two or more races, 3.3 percent African American, 2.6 percent Asian American, and 0.1 percent Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander.

RELATED: Students Call For Ethnic Studies in Portland High Schools

The 2015 four-year graduation rate at Albuquerque Public Schools is 61.7 percent, according to the New Mexico Department of Education.

Families United for Education is committed to continued family and community engagement, Emma Sandoval said. “The next step for Families United is to advocate for ethnic studies to be integrated in the core curriculum for K-12 in the Albuquerque Public School district,” she said.

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