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City Leader Rey Saldaña Helps At-Risk Latinos Learn to Swim



When he was a kid, Rey Saldaña couldn’t swim. His family couldn’t afford lessons. So Saldaña was a little scared as he and his second-grade classmates walked into a chlorine-smelling aquatic center to learn how to swim as part of a federally funded program in San Antonio, Texas (63.34% Latino). He overcame his fear and learned to swim, thanks to that “Learn to Swim” program. Sadly, the program folded before his younger brother could participate. When Saldaña became a member of the San Antonio City Council many years later, he helped recreate the Learn to Swim program to reduce drowning and build kids’ confidence. He didn’t stop there. Saldaña worked with others to on two big projects—renovating an aquatic center and building another new one—that could ...

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Residents Unite to Prevent Private Road from Cutting off a Trail



As an avid cycling enthusiast, Brian Pearson loved riding the new $8 million hike-and-bike trail in his town of Fall River, Mass. (% Latino). Then he learned a new road project could damage the trail. The 2.4-mile Alfred J. Lima Quequechan River Rail Trail—which fully opened in May 2017 after nine years of work and an $8 million investment by the state to improve mobility and access to safe places to play—was jeopardized when city officials tried to enable a develop to build a road that would have crossed and re-routed the trail. Pearson and others were outraged. They gathered information, attended city meetings, and held a rally. They even hired a lawyer to fight for trail perseveration. Would it be enough to save the trail? Trail Stunted by Recession The Quequechan ...

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Ex-Coach Creates Trauma-Informed Program to Reduce Absenteeism in San Antonio


Latino health emotional trauma

John Hernandez coached football in three disadvantaged school districts in Texas. When a player missed practice, Hernandez took it on himself to visit their home. He knew many players faced poverty and other home problems. He would check in on them and offer rides, so the players wouldn’t miss practices and games. Today, Hernandez directs student services at East Central Independent School District in San Antonio. He continues to see students facing poverty and trauma, resulting in missed school, which has disciplinary and even criminal consequences. However, his district didn’t have a program to identify, support, or counsel these students. Hernandez took it on himself to start one. The Problem of Chronic Absenteeism As director of student services, Hernandez is in ...

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How to Turn a Latino Food Desert into a Healthy Food Oasis


Eric Kornacki (left) and Joseph Teipel of Re:Vision in Denver.

Healthy food activists Erick Kornacki and Joseph Teipel have a phrase to call the 81% Latino neighborhood of Westwood in Denver. A "food desert." For decades, Westwood residents have struggled to access healthy food. There are no nearby grocery stores or farmers markets. People lack transportation to find healthy options elsewhere to bring back. Kornacki, Teipel, and Westwood neighbors decided to take matters into their own hands. They began to build backyard vegetable gardens. They talked about how to create a food cooperative. They wanted to build the first community-owned and -run grocer as an oasis in this food desert. Food Deserts Isolate Latinos from Healthy Food In 2007, Kornacki and Teipel co-founded Re:Vision, a nonprofit that works on social justice and food ...

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Texas Border City Turns Bus Stop into Fun Play Place


swing in bus stop in mcallen texas

Sit and wait. That's what most people do at bus stops. Robert de León, a business management analyst with the city of McAllen, thought people could be more active while waiting for buses in McAllen, Texas (85% Latino). In fact, he and other McAllen city employees wanted to turn a bus stop into a play area with swings, hopscotch, and fun for the whole family. Could they turn a sit-place into a play-place, and boost health in McAllen? Sorry State of Health in Hidalgo De León knows health is a problem in McAllen, the largest city in Hildalgo County (91% Latino) in South Texas, which sits next to the Mexican border. Many county residents are living in poverty (26.4%) and report poor or fair health (26.7%), with an obese population of 34.4%. In McAllen, 7.6% don't own ...

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Teacher Plants a SEED to Help Latinos Learn English, Engage in Schools


Latinos participate in Cameron Allen's SEED Center in Austin.

Growing up in Texas, Cameron Allen knew he wanted to be a teacher. How could Allen be the best teacher possible in Texas? Where could he make the most impact? He got a higher education in both English and Spanish—an effort that planted a “seed” for his desire to help Spanish-speakers of all ages gain a path to better, healthier lives. Growing the seeds of knowledge Allen began his collegiate career studying early childhood education at UT Austin in 2002. He also minored in Spanish, and did student teaching and studying in Mexico and in Ecuador. This strongly influenced his life and career. “It exposed me to another part of the world, to another culture, to another way of life,” Allen said. “It opened my eyes to other possibilities and to what could really be ...

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Mom’s Homecoming Mums Raise Awareness for Youth Mental Health



Everything is bigger in Texas. Especially “mums”—those big, flashy, expensive corsages of colorful streamers, bells, and trinkets that students wear for homecoming high-school football games. Dawn Lee, a parent in Hickory Creek, Texas, has made and sold mums for years. “God gives us all a unique talent and apparently, mine is knowing how and where to put the bling on an oversized corsage,” Lee said. Lee recently decided to put her mum-making talent toward a good cause. She had a question after seeing students and family members struggle with mental health issues: How could mums really help students talk about mental health? Her answer: “Mindful Mums.” Addressing Youth Mental Health Stigma Lee has become increasingly aware of youth mental health ...

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Artist’s Fake Ads Save Historic Streetcars in Border City



The streetcar is back along the Texas-Mexico border, thanks to a Latino man's brilliant "fake" ad campaign. Peter Svarzbein, an El Paso native, loved how a historic international streetcar system used to connect downtown El Paso, Texas (82.2% Latino) to downtown Cuidad Juárez, Mexico. But it closed in 1974. Today many in El Paso lack public transportation to reach places they need to go, which harms their health, educational, and employment opportunities, and the economy. So Svarzbein created a fictional, yet powerful ad campaign to simulate the return of El Paso's border-crossing streetcar for his graduate thesis project at New York's School for Visual Arts. Svarzbein's El Paso Transnational Trolley Project sparked enough curiosity and enthusiasm to create a real ...

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Rocio Muñoz Embeds School Health Navigators for Latino Parents



Latinos face many barriers to health care, including language differences; complex and confusing documents and processes; lack of knowledge of available services; unreliable transportation; and fear of using government services. One way to increase health equity among Latinos is to remove these barriers. Rocio Muñoz, community health navigator at Benton County Health Department (BCHD), in partnership with the school district, worked to embed bilingual, bicultural health navigators into elementary schools in Corvallis, Ore. (7.4% Latino), to address these identified barriers. The partnership resulted in a model where health navigators are placed in schools to coordinate with students, parents and teachers regarding students’ health records in order to boost access to health ...

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