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WYSO's Lewis Wallace interviewing Trotwood-Madison High School teacher Alicia Pagan.00000173-90ba-d20e-a9f3-93ba72ce0000Graduating Latino is WYSO's series on education for Latino students in the Miami Valley, produced in partnership with Think TV. It's part of the public media initiative American Graduate, which is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.In much of the Miami Valley the Latino population has gone from about 2 percent in the mid-2000s, to 4 percent now. Around half the local Latino population is from Mexico, which means the other half represent a big cross-section: many Puerto Ricans, and people from Central and South America. The population is a mix of foreign-born and U.S.-born representing a diverse set of experiences.The launching point for this series is a persistent disparity in high school graduation rates between white and Latino students. In 2012 the graduation rate for white students in Ohio was 86 percent; for Latinos, it was 68, and for Black students it was 61 percent. Those racial and ethnic disparities also exist nationally, but the white/Hispanic disparity is much wider in Ohio than in the nation.Some local districts, especially Dayton, are looking at low graduation rates across the board. Latino kids fall through the cracks, but they’re not the only ones.The good news is, dropout rates in this country have been falling for decades now—for all students, and for Latinos especially. The percentage of Latino high schoolers to drop out completely went from 40 percent in 1972 to 15 percent in 2012. In the process of reporting these series we’ve met a lot of kids who are doing great, graduating and going to college. We also found that many of the kids who do drop out or don’t graduate on time are dealing with the same issues: the need to support their families, a belief that they can’t go on to college, or overwhelming life circumstances.The stories will range from preschool and kindergarten readiness to bilingual education to personal profiles of people dealing with not having legal status while trying to go to school. We’ll also hear about positive programs like El Puente in the Twin Towers neighborhood, Springfield’s Hispanic Outreach Program and a group of Puerto Rican Engineers working to mentor kids. We’ll visit high schools in Dayton and Trotwood. It’s by no means comprehensive, but we hope it will show a slice of what’s going on in this rich and diverse community.Look for stories from our whole news team from April 13-24 in our weekday news shows, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as online every day. You can also access local stories from WYSO through your smartphone on wyso.org or through the free app NPROne.00000173-90ba-d20e-a9f3-93ba72cf0001

A Dayton Mother Looks In From The Outside

Nube with her teenage daughter, Kimberly. latino
Juliet Fromholt
Nube with her teenage daughter, Kimberly.

Nube’s trying to get her kids out the door to school. Her six-year-old comes running down the stairs; her 15-year-old is up in the bedroom getting dressed. She and her children aren’t even five feet tall, but they fill up the kitchen bustling around trying to eat and get ready.

Nube is a compact woman with a wide smile—and she came a long way to Dayton. We’re not using Nube’s full name because she asked us to withhold it for her protection.


“I’m trying to forget about this forever”

Her story starts in 1997, when she left Ecuador to immigrate here. She tells me about her experience sitting in a chair in her wide, light living room in East Dayton—after the kids have gone, in the few minutes she has before work.

“The life in my country is very hard,” she says, in English. “That’s why we come.”

Nube came to the United States from Ecuador in her late 20s. latino
Credit Juliet Fromholt / WYSO
Nube came to the United States from Ecuador in her late 20s.

Even though she was trained as a nurse, she was barely scraping by in Ecuador, so after her husband went to the U.S, he called and convinced her to join him. The trip from Ecuador to the U.S. border took months. A lot of it was on foot, and Nube describes her feet bleeding and blistered by the time she reached the border in Mexico.

Then she got caught by immigration twice trying to cross the river into the U.S. She pretended to be from Mexico so as not to get deported all the way back to Ecuador.

The third time worked—nobody caught her as she waded and then swam to the United States.

“Finally,” Nube says, laughing. All this was nothing, she says, compared to what some people go through to get here.

“Everybody doing [the] same thing. Sometimes other people, it’s more hard for them. People die doing that, people disappear on the border,” she says.

Her trials weren’t over after the border crossing. Nube met her husband, and they moved to Cincinnati and had two baby daughters. When the girls were still little, he beat her up so badly she was hospitalized—multiple bones were broken in her leg. He allowed her to go the hospital on the condition that she wouldn’t turn him in to the police. After the incident, he disappeared—maybe afraid of being caught and deported. She doesn’t even know if he’s still alive.

“After that, my life changed physically and emotionally,” Nube says.

Her leg has never fully recovered, and neither has her heart. It’s hard for her to talk about. After sharing details of her story for nearly an hour, she gets tired.

“I can’t talk to you,” Nube says. “Because it’s hard for me when I remember.”

I am trying to forget about this forever, she says.

A Culture Clash

Nube and her girls came to Dayton for the calm, the tranquility, and the schools, and for the most part, she’s found the tranquility she was looking for. She has quite a bit of family here, and these days, her problems are more mundane—getting the girls to school, going to work. The biggest trouble, she says, is just the fact that her English isn’t great.

“The biggest problem that we’ve had is that I’m no longer able to help them do their homework,” Nube says, through a translator now. “I read a little bit of English but my comprehension isn’t great. I could help them through about 5th grade, but after that it is harder.”

And there’s a culture clash. Ecuador is really different.

“I’m from a very conservative country,” she says. “Girls have to be in the home, do our homework, do the household chores, and always be by our fathers. But here, the girls aren’t like that...they have more freedom. And because my daughters were born here, they want to be a part of this culture. It’s a problem for us.”

Nube and her middle daughter in their kitchen in Dayton latino
Credit Juliet Fromholt / WYSO
Nube and her middle daughter in their kitchen in Dayton.

Nube feels outside of it all—her girls' lives, the schools.  

“I just wish the schools in Dayton would inform themselves a little bit about our culture,” Nube says.”

She says one time she went to talk to a middle school teacher about her fifteen-year-old, Kimberly, acting out at home. The teacher told her she, Nube, would need to be the one to adjust.

But now both the older girls are at the Dayton Early College Academy—when they started there, an advisor who speaks Spanish came to their house to see Nube.That meant a lot.

“It gives me more confidence speaking to someone who’s bilingual and knows our culture,” says Nube.

“This is the best thing I’m doing”

All her struggles—the trip here, the abusive relationship, the challenges with adjusting culturally—seem to be on Nube’s shoulders alone. She’s been by herself since her most recent boyfriend, the father of her youngest daughter, got deported a few years ago. She rarely talks about her past of abuse, and she's helped her daughter get therapy to deal with her memories of it. The one thing she does for herself all week, she says, is when she goes to English classes.

“This is the best thing I’m doing, my day is very busy every day,” she says, in English again. “But when I’m going to the school, I’m feeling like when I’m teenage.”

Nube wants legal status—she would have applied for the recent deportation relief ordered by President Obama which would have included some parents of U.S. citizens, but that policy, known as DACA/DAPA, has been placed on hold by the courts. Having legal status would let her go back to school and get qualified to be a nurse in this country.

Now she’s in the process of applying for what’s called a U visa, a special visa for immigrant victims of crimes used to encourage them to come forward. Because she did eventually go to the police about her husband, her assault could lead to her gaining the ability to stay here legally.

Right now, though, Nube’s life is all about her kids—she’s pleased they’re doing well in school. The oldest just got into college, and Nube is proud and happy, but doesn’t know how to give her advice on where to go. She just hopes she’ll stay close.

On our morning together, the whole family piles into the minivan—the six-year-old is still carrying breakfast, a bowl full of bright pink yogurt. They sit still in the back while Nube jumps out to scrape the windshield on an unexpectedly cold day. Now it’s 45 minutes of driving around before she heads to work cleaning hotel rooms.

Thanks to Ella Arnold of Antioch College for translations. Graduating Latino is WYSO's series on education for Latinos in the Miami Valley, produced in partnership with Think TV. It's part of the public media initiative American Graduate, which is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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