Plaza Comunitaria, Promoting Life-Long Learning

By: Bailey Phillips

According to the 2010 US Census, there are 50.5 million people of Hispanic origin in the United States compared to 35.3 million in 2000. Hispanics are the largest growing population in the United States with a 43 percent growth since 1990, and providing adult literacy programs to English language learners (ELLs) is a service that is required now more than ever.

The Plaza Comunitarias Program was created in 2001 under the administration of Mexican President Vicente Fox and accepted in the United States through a Memorandum of Understanding between the Mexican and United States governments dated November 10, 2004. The Plazas Comunitarias serve as transitional programs into English and adult basic education classes as it establishes an academic foundation for Hispanic immigrants from which to work. There are four hundred Plaza Comunitarias programs in the United States, and one of them is located in Commerce, TX.

Commerce ISD Superintendent Blake Cooper recognized the need and importance of improved service delivery to a growing population of ELLs in the Northeast Texas region, and teamed up with A&M-Commerce to open a local literacy center. The program is fully accredited by the Mexican Department of Education and is implemented through the Mexican Consulate in Dallas. Since its inauguration in 2010, the Plaza Comunitaria has attracted people from as far as Rockwall and Rowlett.

“The plaza was a real risky move from a brilliant superintendent because he knew what his need was, and he was willing to take that risk,” said Dr. Maria Hinojosa. Being the only literacy center this far east in the state, Commerce ISD has been able to host the center and create a space that promotes life-long learning for Spanish-speaking adults. The goal of the program is to make sure that students are proficient in their first language (Spanish), so they can better learn a second language. After obtaining their Spanish GED, students will then work towards earning their English GED. The program recently graduated its first parents with their English GEDs, who received a diploma that may be used in Mexico or serve as a GED equivalent in the United States.

We are pleased to have a center that offers education through a curriculum that is culturally and linguistically relevant for Latino immigrants here in Commerce, and will continue to empower immigrants with educational and job skills needed to successfully integrate into the United States economy and culture.