Charlotte is a captivating place; a modern and a quiet urban city with a solid financial network of banks and well-preserved historical neighborhoods. It seems to have been pulled out from a children's book. However, the book is including a new chapter to its story. The story is now embracing the growing community of Latinos which is not only changing demographically, but it is also changing the town's view on bilingualism.
Having been able to travel to Charlotte almost every month in the last four years, I have been able to see how much the Latino community has grown. It used to be very difficult to find someone of my own ethnicity, but today I have seen how the city has been evolving shyly but steadily into a multicultural place.
According to researchers, Hispanics are an important ethnic group in rural places of North Carolina. Moreover, they are increasingly moving from rural to urban areas. The highest percentages of Hispanics are overly represented in small towns and cities across the state.
'I suspect without Hispanic in-migration many of these small towns would be emptying out, losing population. Hispanics play an important role in many economic needs of rural N.C. statewide,' pointed out John Chesser, a researcher and author of 'Hispanics in N.C.: Big numbers in small towns'.
As we can acknowledge, Latinos are not just exploring new job opportunities in Charlotte, but they are also discovering a safe environment to resettle and raise their families.
This rapid growth of a new ethnic group within the community has forced them to re-evaluate their current education curriculum. Recently, I have been surprised by a new heading that The Charlotte Observer newspaper published in their article last week,"Bilingual Learning of Latino Children Grows". Despite of whether we agree or not , the whole concept about "bilingualism" in this community lacks substance.
I couldn't be happier to realize that the story supports my own thesis that Charlotte is becoming a more multiracial community, thus forcing the board of education to take action upon their multiracial students. It has been prognosticated that in less than a decade, Charlotte will be overflowing with multi ethnicity groups.
As a result, education is becoming a true challenge for Charlotte authorities, especially in Mecklenburg. This county has the highest numbers of immigrants that come mostly from México.
According to The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte-Mecklenburg School has nearly 17,000 of its students coming from a household whose primary language is Spanish. "Most of the students were born in the United States, but their parents weren't," stated Marc Price, The Charlotte Observer reporter.
Some programs and nonprofit organizations have identified the need and the priority to help Hispanic families achieve a better integration within the school system and cope with other social structures as well.
However, the task is not easy for those groups pursuing the initiatives. One of the first obstacles they are facing is the immigrants' fears. A significant number of Latinos are living in the shadows with no legal status in the country, thus struggling everyday with a strenuous issue like deportation.
Hoping that with time things might be better for them, immigrants are currently enjoying programs that have been oriented to their needs. La Escuelita at The Church of the Holy Comforter has launched a Spanish-English immersion program for English and Spanish speaking preschoolers that will allow them to learn together in both languages, maintained The Charlotte Observer.
Another innovative project is Creciendo Juntos (Growing Together) -- launched last January at Charlotte Bilingual Preschool-- a series of parenting classes for Latinos whose children are too young for preschool.
'The program is also working to bring Latino parents out of the shadows and into the broader community. In doing so, Creciendo Juntos intends to prepare them for the challenges of an English speaking school system,' emphasized The Charlotte Observer.
Joanne Stratton Tate, head of Charlotte Bilingual Preschool, explained to the newspaper, that this approach is much needed in order to deal with the growing of Latino parents wanting to enroll their children in school.
Charlotte's demography is changing at a fast pace and it can not be ignored. It should be a priority for local authorities to embrace and support new initiatives. Eventually, these children will be part of our workforce, and they will help create an economic boost in a multicultural city.