WEST TEXAS (KMID/KPEJ) — As Hispanic Heritage Month continues, we’re highlighting how Hispanic culture is taught in West Texas schools.

A great example of incorporating Hispanic culture into everyday life is at the Ben Milam International Academy. It’s an elementary school, but also a dual language program.

“It increases student achievement, it opens doors in every area for a student, and it’s a fantastic way to learn. So just consider the different options MISD offers,” said Brenda Jobes, the Principal at Ben Milam International Academy. “Instruction Pre-K through second is basically in Spanish, they do all their content they learn absolutely the same thing that any other student in Texas, but they do it in a language that is not their own.”

Native English speakers learn Spanish and vice versa…

“Our students become a lot more aware of the culture of Hispanic-speaking countries. They learn not only about the countries that are closest to us but every other country and culture,” said Jobes.

She says the extensive benefits of the program include an extra edge and workforce advantage.
The academy includes 3 or 4-year-olds for Pre-K or Kindergarten.

Another local program offered for local teens is taking a Mariachi class at Odessa High School.

“It’s very important to have a mariachi program in schools because a lot of these kids that joined mariachi wouldn’t have thought to be a part of a fine arts program. So this is a really good way to reach out to those kids and give them a home, they really love being here and so I’m really happy to be there for them as well,” said Jerimie Hernandez, Mariachi director at OHS.

Mr. Hernandez has been teaching for 10 years now and says he’s so grateful to be a part of these students’ lives.

“Making an impact in the youth, I really like tapping into talent that students don’t know or believe they have,” said Hernandez.

Many students involved in the mariachi are happy to have a program that celebrates their heritage each day.

“Once I heard OHS offered mariachi, I immediately jumped on it and switched schools,” said Gilberto Arenivas, a junior at OHS.

“It brings out my origin, and I get to discover new music that I’ve never heard of,” said OHS Senior, Darwin Modesto.

“At first sight, they don’t know I’m Mexican, it’s always good to see the reaction when they see that I can sing and speak Spanish. I love doing that. I’m Mexican all the way. I love Mexico, I love mariachi, the style is so beautiful,” said Senior, Abraham Flores.

“When we’re playing we make people so happy, you can just see their faces light up,” said Arenivas.

“Any kind of person is just happy to hear kids perform music, it’s happy for anybody,” said Aliyah Melendez, a sophomore at Odessa High.

“Both my parents are fully Mexican, and I didn’t really grow up speaking Spanish so I really wanted to connect with it more,” said Arenivas.