News item: Census data show that a majority of the nation's children will be minorities before the decade is out.
Three decades ago, a Hispanic in Davis County was usually a migrant fieldworker and stuck out like a sore thumb.
Now there are more than 25,000 from all walks of life. The Davis School District, realizing Hispanic children will be the taxpayers and leaders of tomorrow, is working to better educate them now.
John Zurbuchen, head of the Davis district's English as a Second Language programs, says Hispanic students are an asset. They're usually bilingual and can help younger kids struggling with English.
By so doing, they also improve themselves.
Thus was born "Latinos in Action." Hispanic high school students tutor younger students, gain appreciation for the jobs their teachers do, find reasons to stay in school longer and have a good time.
Clearfield High School art and computer teacher Debra Ramer mentors 29 Latino in Action students. She said Hispanic students tend to have a higher rate of dropouts, but not hers.
"I've got a lot of kids, and they're even talking to each other to keep themselves coming to school."
They go twice a week to Holt Elementary. I piled on the school bus with them and away we went.
One student, Eddy Avina, 15, looked sharp in his Air Force ROTC uniform. He was born in California and moved to Utah because his family was worried about gangs.
He likes tutoring and reading with little kids. Teaching young students, he says, "sends them a message that they have an opportunity to learn."
I followed Tanairy Torres and Evelyn Hernandez into Susan Weiler's first-grade classroom. Tanairy sat down with Alexandra, 7, who is having trouble with her latest English test. Evelyn settled in with Ricky, who just needed help with the day's class work.
It was great fun to watch. Both girls were patient and helpful. Tanairy went down the list of quiz questions Alexandra had missed, helping with strange words.
One question talked about moonlight beaming in a window. "Do you know what beaming is?" she said.
Alexandra shook her head. "When the moonlight goes in through your window, that's what it is." Alexandra nodded, and Tanairy went on to the next question.
Weiler has seen the number of Hispanic students increase steadily in recent years and loves having the tutors help. Her Hispanic students all speak English, but because Spanish may also be spoken in their homes, word comprehension is a problem.
"It gives these students from Clearfield High a chance to come into the community and see the kids that are coming up behind them," she said. "They come in here and the kids just light up. They all want to be a part of it."
All are. Holt Principal Christine Wahlquist said the Hispanic high schoolers work with all of the school's students, not just those who are Hispanic.
The goal is to break down barriers, not build them.
That's a huge goal -- and is why this program is so important.
Hispanics are the fastest-growing demographic group in Utah. All the blather about who is legal or illegal, who has to pay for what, or who will cost us what is beside the point.
Utah's future, our future, will include a lot of people of Hispanic descent. Whether that future includes well-educated, productive people of Hispanic descent or shunned and uneducated people of Hispanic descent is up to us now.
Davis schools and Latinos in Action are doing it right.
Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can call him at 801-625-4232 or e-mail him at email@example.com. He also blogs at www.standard.net.