Why post such a serious song for Dia del Niño? Children are not immune to hardship. Balloons, candy and happy songs can momentarily brighten a child’s mood, but they need more. Building our children’s resilience is what will give them the best shot at lifelong health and happiness.
Growing up can be tough anywhere, but the shock of emigration and acculturation can amplify these challenges exponentially. Relationships within a family and support systems around it are disrupted. The language, environment, food and most everything else are different. As young people struggle to cope at the most basic levels in their new lives, they must also create new paths to resiliency. They must rise above survival.
Ideally, they will fuse the best of the world they left behind with the best of their adopted home. They will develop cultural fluency. Their identities will add new depths and dimensions, as they continue to rely on their families for support while realizing an expanded future for themselves.
At Los Cenzontles Academy, we work with first- and second-generation families to prepare our children to thrive as fully formed individuals with a fluid yet anchored sense of self. Tradition and culture arts are not taught as burdens that weigh us down, but as foundations that remind us of our stories, of the strengths that have brought us to where we are today.
We teach art as a discipline that introduces and reinforces a strong work ethic, leadership and teamwork. Within a safe social environment, our students are encouraged and challenged to cultivate their creativity. To envision who they wish to be, and to express this vision as they navigate a difficult, ever-changing world.
Not many educational institutions raise expectations very high for immigrant and working-class students. Those that do often fail to recognize that their children are already well-equipped with familial cultural assets that can support growth. These children are typically asked to choose between two irreconcilable models, not to create their own. This is a grave missed opportunity that can easily result in the wasted human potential and lost dreams.
This not only occurs in immigrant communities. Most American children do not receive consistent creative-arts education throughout their school lives. They are our most valuable national asset, but the investment we make in their creative potential -- in their ability to sing and dance, to make music and art, to express beauty, to dream -- is minimal. It is precisely this investment that ensures an invested citizenry and a brighter collective future.
Survival is not enough. We must live -- as individuals and as a nation.
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