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Kansas City Public Schools To Partner With Mexican Consulate

Sam Zeff

In a few weeks, Kansas City Public Schools will have a brand new and unusual educational partner.

The district expects to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Mexican Consulate in Kansas City to provide an array of services to Mexican students and their families in the district. 

About 25 percent of the district’s students are Spanish speakers and most of them have Mexican roots.

"We have children here who have come to this country at no choice of their own. This was a parent choice," says Luis Cordoba who runs the district’s Office of Student Interventions.

If you’re truant, his staff will look for you.

If you’re homeless, they’ll try to find you a roof.

And if you’re undocumented, they may soon connect you to the Mexican Consulate on Baltimore Avenue, just on the edge of the Crossroads Arts District.

When you walk in, it looks like the DMV.

There are rows of chair,s where Mexican nationals wait for help for everything, from ID cards to collecting child support.

The Mexican government wants to help the schools educate undocumented students by opening a Communications Plaza in a district building, says Deputy Consul Lee Wong Medina.

"The plaza is just the first step to having a community center that can concentrate and disseminate a wide range of services," Medina says.

That range of services is much wider than just education.

Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR
Rubi Ramirez Vega came to the U.S. when she was three and is now a paraprofessional in KCK.

We’ll get back to that, but first  a little about the people this partnership could help.

Rubi Ramirez Vega came to Kansas City with her family when she was just 3 years old.

"We’ve been here practically all our lives," Vega says. "We consider ourselves more American than we do Mexican."

Vega graduated from a special program in Kansas City two years ago that allows roughly 90 high achieving students a year to leave school with both their high school diploma and an associate degree from Penn Valley Community College.

Now she is a paraprofessional at Frank Rushton Elementary School in the Kansas City Kansas School District. She helps first-, second- and third-graders learn English.

Just before graduation she was granted legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Everything, Vega says, was more difficult for her and her family because they were undocumented, no driver’s license and forced to work under the table.

Services from the Mexican Consulate would have been very welcome.

"If people were to get more services, there’s no saying what could be done. Because we’re very hard working people we just need to be given an opportunity to do some stuff," she says.

Mexico operates 416 such communications plazas across the country. Mexicans and other Latinos can go there for legal advice, health services and banking help, but right near the top of the list is education.

Both district and consulate officials say they’re most excited about literacy programs for parents.

Luis Cordoba from the school district says he needs to change how some parents view education and learning to read and write can do that.

"They don’t have a value of education and how important education is to attaining a job," Cordoba says.

Deputy Consul Wong Medina says the Mexican government is keeping a close eye on local politics.

"We’re very respectful of the decisions that are being taken by the authorities anywhere in the world, we do have some programs that may be able to provide some type of relief," Medina says.

Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR
Deputy Consul Lee Wong Medina from the Mexican Consulate in Kansas City.

That relief includes $80,000 in matching college scholarships to Kansas City metro students Mexico provided last year.

It comes at a time when Missouri lawmakers have stripped away in-state tuition and state funded scholarships for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students.

Cordoba says this should not be about politics.

"To me it’s about a humanitarian issue. To me it’s about children who want education, thrive to have it at any cost," Cordoba says.

In just a few weeks for dozens of Mexican students and their families in Kansas City Public Schools, it’s going to get just a little bit easier.

Sam Zeff covers education for KCUR. Sam also hosts KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend. Follow him on Twitter @samzeff.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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