By Celena Flores
South Texas shares some common concerns with Denmark — immigration and education.
On Nov. 7, five Danish educators visited this college to learn more about the community initiatives offered here.
This college and South Texas Community College in McAllen were the only two community colleges chosen to visit.
The educators came from three colleges in Denmark. The Danish visitors were Annike Martinez from Arhus Technical College; Ulf Günthersen from Obense Technical College; and Aila Hargbøl and Hjørdis Steinmetz from the Education Centre in Copenhagen.
“The education system in the United States compared to Denmark is quite different,” Martinez said. “Students are only required to go to school for nine years and then choose between technical and college education.”
“Our main goal is to challenge families that have been in Denmark for three and four generations and still have not assimilated into Danish culture and education,” Hargbol said.
Denmark has a population of slightly more than 5 million, with 6 percent of its residents being immigrants.
“Denmark is having the same issues with immigration that we have here in Texas. The only difference is that we are dealing with one major immigrant population, while Denmark is dealing with a worldwide immigrant population,” said Ruben Flores, dean of evening, weekend and distance education.
According to the April 1, 2000, census, the United States population was a total of 281,421,906 and is now estimated at 303,374,989.
The Federation for the American Immigration Reform conducted a survey in 2006. One in eight, or 37.4 million residents of the United States, was foreign-born, making up around 12.5 percent of the total population. In Texas alone, the total population in 2000 was 20,851,820 with the estimated growth by 2005 to be 22,775,044.
According to FAIR, Texas’ immigration population in 2006 was 3,569,825 making up 15.2 percent of the residents in this state.
The six programs the Danish educators learned about were the Family Learning Academy, Dual Credit Program, Gateway to College program, Summer Bridge, Weekend College and Senior Summer Programs.
The Family Learning Academy has a peer mentor component and is a program designed to assist students who are having academic difficulty and are at risk of dropping out. Mentors receive a $1,000 scholarship to this college.
The second component is a Parent/ Community Educational Council, where parents and members of the community are designated promoters of education. They inform others about college preparatory issues including early childhood development and college-bound high school coursework preparation, financial aid and scholarships and college admissions procedures.
Those who complete the training and volunteer for eight to 10 hours per month are each awarded a $500 scholarship to this college.
“The programs we offer are for inner-city kids that are low B and C average students. By bringing them into the programs we are letting them know that college is also for you, and not just for the top 10 percent of a graduating class,” Flores said.
The Summer Bridge Program is a new dropout prevention program.
The goal is to improve students’ college readiness levels.
The program offers early assessment of students’ placement levels with tests administered before and after the program to determine the need for remedial English and writing courses and a remedial mathematics lab.
The senior summer program is a high school-to-college transition program. It is a six-week accelerated program for high school graduates and individuals who have completed a GED, who are typically not college bound; mainly C students.
“The programs here are very inspiring. We can go home and transfer them to the Danish way, especially incorporating them with parent involvement,” Hargbøl said.
The Gateway to College program is for high school dropouts ages 16 to 20 to earn a high school diploma while simultaneously earning college credit toward an associate degree or certificate.
Students from some of these programs were available to tell their stories about assimilation and education to the Danish visitors.