A recent study put out by the University of Birmingham found that ethnic minority students that attend complimentary after-school programs, in which more than one language is used for instruction, report higher levels of self esteem and confidence.  For those students, a bilingual identity that stretched beyond the home environment was found to be associated with a more world-wise, modern identity.  Additionally, families of students in such programs report greater satisfaction with the education their children were receive.

I thought this study was interesting because one of the factors that was impressed on me most deeply while I was in school regarding immigrant identity, is that there is a shift between the first, second and third generation.  The first generation often comes interested in preserving the ways of the country they came from.  For instance, they may continue to speak only their first language and learn English only as needed.  The second generation are the first children of immigrants born in America.  They may serve as the families translators and ambassadors to mainstream American culture.  In spite of their role as translators, the expectation may be that they still keep their primary loyalties to their parent’s culture.  The third generation is almost entirely American; the culture of their ancestors is sometimes just that, ancestral.  The realities of an, at times, jingoistic racism are not lost on the third generation of immigrants.  However, their identities are strongly influenced by the American mainstream.

I wonder what effect introducing more complimentary schools with focuses on Hmong and Somali culture would have on gang involvement in the Twin Cities Metro area.  With the influx of Somali and Hmong refugees the area has been enriched by in the past few years, Somali and Hmong gang involvement has unfortunately increased.  If more complimentary school programs were introduced, would that increase cultural identity and serve the need that seems to be fulfilled currently through involvement with gang affiliation?  How would it change or improve first generation immigrants opinions of the American school and social service system?  How could social services use complimentary programs to increase utilization among under-served populations?  What do you think?

Economic & Social Research Council (2009, February 10). Multilingualism Brings Communities Closer Together. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 14, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/02/090210092721.htm

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