Martinez: Valley View students shine first in Spanish. Then in everything else.

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HIDALGO, Texas – The first cohort of students have graduated from Valley View High School with a high school diploma and a minor in Spanish from UT-San Antonio.

Valley View, one of the smallest school districts in Hidalgo County, used to have a similar tie-up with UT-Pan American and then UT-Rio Grande Valley. But these days, the emphasis on helping students that excel in Spanish is being championed by UTSA.

“We’re so very happy to receive and celebrate this first group of eight students who are graduating with a Minor in Spanish,” said Glenn Martinez, dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts at UTSA.

“Our director of dual credit always says that dual credits are about more than credit. Dual credit is about creating a relationship, creating a sense of identity with the university. We want these students to feel that they’re Road Runners from 10th grade all the way through graduate school. So, we look forward to receiving them on our campus and living in our dorms, eating in our cafeteria, enjoying our sports and our student life that we have prepared for them.”

Asked how the connection between Valley View and UTSA came about, Martinez said: “It came about from a personal relationship. I was employed at UTPA for nine years and began this program with Mr. David de Leon. I was recruited away from UTPA to the Ohio State University. I was there for eight years and then was recruited back to UTSA. And when I came back the first person that I looked up was David de Leon.”

David de Leon is a Spanish language teacher at Valley View. At a school awards ceremony, de Leon awarded Seal of Biliteracy certificates to the eight students. They are Mia N. Cruz, Learsey A. Escamilla, Pedro Espinoza, Sugey N. Gonzalez De La Llave, Sadrach Mancha, Orlando Martinez Cabriales, Nicole Montoya, and Jesus A. Treviño.

UTSA’s Martinez said he has no doubts the Valley View students will do well when they get to San Antonio.

“These students are just so outstanding. They shine first in Spanish, and then they shine in everything else. We have graduates who now are biology teachers. We have another graduate who’s in medical school. We have graduates who are in engineering at Harvard and Penn State University. That’s really what’s coming out of this program.”

Martinez expanded on this thought.

“To me it’s because we identified something that they were strong in. And we told them, you’re strong in it (Spanish) and you’re good at it and you can do more and more. And as they responded to our invitation to do more and more, they had greater and greater confidence. And that’s what we’ve seen with this program through its entire time. What this program gives the students is a sense of confidence and sense of self-worth that allows them to not only enroll in a four-year university but to continue to persist all the way through and to pursue higher and higher levels of education.”

Glenn Martinez, dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts at UTSA, children’s advocate Luisa Saenz, and Valley View High School Spanish language teacher David de Leon. (Photo: RGG/Steve Taylor)

Martinez pointed to demographic projections that say the United States will be the largest Spanish speaking country in the world by 2050.

“As I said, I was I spent almost a decade in Ohio and Ohio is no stranger to Spanish speakers. Neither is Georgia. Neither is Mississippi. It’s all around the country, that need for Spanish speaking professionals, Spanish speaking teachers, Spanish speaking lawyers, medical professionals.”

Asked if he can foresee further collaborations between UTSA and Valley View, Martinez said:

“We want to extend this Spanish Minor program to schools all across the Valley and South Texas. Our mission as a university is to educate the population of San Antonio and South Texas. We are a South Texas university. So, we want to extend this to other schools.

“We would like to extend this in Valley View to other areas where students are high achieving, whether that’s music, whether that is math, whether that is science. We want to extend this because we think that the real key, the real golden nugget in this program is identifying what a student is good at and affirming it and building that confidence. That’s what’s really happening here.”

Luisa Saenz’s perspective

Luisa Saenz has been an advisor to Valley View on the Spanish Minor program from the beginning, back when the high school worked with UTPA. In an audio interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Saenz explained how the program about, giving a lot of credit to Valley’s View’s De Leon. Here is the interview:

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