United/Unidos/Tl Ndl

Award-winning author and speaker Victor Villaseñor will visit Durango Jan. 16-19 as part of a community-wide event called “United/Unidos/T’áálá’í Níídlí.” Among other organizations, Villaseñor’s visit is hosted by Durango School District 9-R. He will speak to 9-R teachers, staff and students, addressing various issues that the district is working on. Among them is the drive to improve testing scores and academic achievement of Hispanic and Native American students. Repeatedly, district’s leaders have learned that these minority students lag their peers because of cultural conflict and language barriers.

Deborah Uroda, director of public information for 9-R, says Villaseñor’s work with the district is part of the ideas and strategies advanced by the Minority Student Achievement Task Force. The task force was formed last fall to address ongoing concerns and challenges, she says. Uroda says that with study, the district has found that minority students most often disengaged from the education experience. Villaseñor’s work with the district is one of several efforts the district is making. Uroda says that the improvements will reach beyond elevating minority-student success.

“If we make our communities be more welcoming to minority students, we will have a more welcoming community in general,” she says.

In addition to conducting workshops with 9-R, Villaseñor will address the general public at 6:30 p.m. Tues., Jan. 17, at Miller Middle School. Before the free public lecture, the La Plata Unity Coalition will host an information fair starting at 5 p.m. There will be information about human-services agencies that offer programs to area minorities. There also will be a benefit dinner to support Durango High School’s Prejudice Elimination Action Team, Journey Through Our Heritage, the school’s Native American Club, and the Needham Elementary School Diné Club, as well as other student organizations.

– Amy Maestas