For many, the name “Coachella” brings to mind the popular music festival that attracts hundreds-of-thousands of people from all over the country to jam out to their favorite artists. This year’s Coachella Valley Music Festival was headlined by music icon, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, whose groundbreaking performance was dedicated to the power of education. From casual fans to California lawmakers, everyone was talking about the performance, and how it impacted the Coachella Valley region. Few probably know, however, about an outstanding AmeriCorps education program that has been making an impact in Coachella for years, long before Queen Bey.
AmeriCorps Lectura, located in the Coachella Valley Unified School District, is dedicated to improving the reading fluency and writing skills of English Learners. Supported by 52 AmeriCorps Lectura members, the program serves approximately 2,500 students across every elementary and middle school in the district.
AmeriCorps Lectura members play a vital role facilitating student engagement with their classwork and overcoming language barriers. The service that members provide is especially important considering the unique challenges within the student demographic. According to Hidali Garcia, Director of the AmeriCorps Lectura program, students in the program speak a range of Spanish and indigenous dialects. Lectura members have the task of familiarizing them with Standard English; helping them cultivate the skills they need to succeed.
Lectura members come to the program with an intimate awareness of the challenges students face in the classroom and in the community. A majority of them are from Coachella Valley, ages 18-29, and all are of Hispanic descent. Most members come from families with migrant worker backgrounds. “If it were not for AmeriCorps, a typical member would likely follow in their parent’s footsteps as agriculture workers in the Valley,” says Garcia.
Garcia is cognizant of the enormous impact that the program has on the lives of students and the members serving them. “The program has not only changed the lives of our English Learners receiving the services,” she says, “but of course the lives of our members as well. It’s such a complete learning opportunity for our members.” She emphasizes how working with AmeriCorps opens a number of possibilities for members. “They are able to work with students and identify whether or not they want to go into education or if they want to be counselors.”
Garcia understands how much having the program in Coachella Valley means for the community, and is grateful for the opportunity to serve along with AmeriCorps Lectura members. “There aren’t words that can express how fortunate we are.”
While Beyoncé indeed made headlines in Coachella this year, AmeriCorps Lectura members are the real superstars, and they prove that there’s more to the region than the music festival. Here at CaliforniaVolunteers, we appreciate the incredible work they do improving the reading and writing skills of English Learners in the region, and are deeply grateful for their service.