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CU Denver grad helps North High Hispanic students learn Spanish

James Dolores.jpg
Posted at 5:01 PM, Dec 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-15 22:28:56-05

DENVER – As the University of Colorado Denver prepares to host a commencement ceremony Saturday, one of the graduates, James Dolores, is already putting his Masters of the Arts in Teaching degree to use at Denver’s North High School.

“They have what's called the Spanish Language Arts Program that's geared towards heritage speakers. So, that’s students who grew up in a Spanish-speaking household and their levels vary… they may only understand Spanish and not speak it so much, all the way up to speaking it pretty fluently and conversationally. So that program is really geared to help them develop Spanish as much as English is developed in the school,” Dolores said.

Dolores said he relates to many of his students’ experiences.

“Growing up, there were times where my friends would make me feel not Latino enough because I didn't speak Spanish as fluently as them. And then on the flip side, my European American friends, you know, there was always a thing that they point out,” he said.

But Dolores said the language arts program is helping change that dynamic.

“Unfortunately, what we do see sometimes in the Spanish-speaking community, because of all the variation, is kind of like, ‘Oh, that's not the right way to speak it, right?' And that's what we're trying to break here at North High School," Dolores said. "There's no necessarily right way to speak Spanish. There's a more academic way, sure, and that's why we want to teach them. But also, if your word for sweater is different than our word for sweater, or if you have different slang words that you use than we do, that doesn't mean that you're speaking a lower level of Spanish. It's just different."

“It was my first language. But over the years, when I started speaking English, I kind of got rid of Spanish,” said North High senior Diana Arceo.

Arceo is now taking college-level Spanish classes.

“I'm graduating with almost a minor in Spanish,” she said.

Arceo said her success can be attributed to the language arts program and help she received from Dolores, who inspires her.

“Honestly, I'm proud of him,” Arceo said.

Dolores said after receiving his degree, he plans to return to North High School and continue teaching. He hopes that his students take what they’ve learned and feel more empowered to use their voices.

"Se fuerta. Stay strong," Dolores said.