YAKIMA, Wash. — Because her mother came out of the shadows, Anjelica Reyna has been able to shine.
Reyna, a graduating senior at Davis High School, says if her mother hadn’t made the agonizing decision to go back to Mexico, she wouldn’t be heading off to Washington State University this fall.
Reyna, who was born in Yakima 17 years ago, has a family story somewhat reminiscent of what Mitt Romney urged undocumented workers to do during the presidential campaign last year: self-deport.
And that’s basically what Reyna’s mother, Rafaela Gomez, did.
“My mom took a stand, and I’m grateful,” Reyna says.
Reyna’s father was killed in a car accident in Michoácan, Mexico, five months before she was born. Her mother was left with two children, Efren, 3, and Lourdes, 4, and not much hope for their future in their small farming village. But Rafaela had a brother in Yakima, who was here on a work visa, and he urged his sister to come to the United States to better provide for her children.
So when she was seven months pregnant, she sneaked across the border, her two children with her. Reyna was born two months later at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital.
In time, Rafaela married Austreberto Gomez, and they had a daughter, Samantha, now 10.
When Reyna was in sixth grade, her mother made the decision to go back to Mexico so they could return some day legally.
She had applied for citizenship but was denied. She could have continued to live here and dodge law enforcement, but she wanted her children to be able to go to college in this country someday.
“I think it was the right decision,” says Daniel Longoria, an economics teacher at Davis, who calls Reyna “a great kid.” Reyna’s mother, he says, “took a big risk with her family, and that allowed them to have opportunity later.”
Reyna agrees. “I’m definitely proud of her decision. I wouldn’t be here without that.”
The entire family moved to Michoácan six years ago. Even though Reyna is fluent in Spanish, it was difficult to maneuver in a strange land. “It was culture shock. The environment was so different,” she says.
After a year and a half, Rafaela Gomez was told she could return to this country as a permanent resident. Reyna, who came back near the end of seventh grade, has excelled in school since. She maintains a 3.5 GPA while being involved in volunteer work at Davis and working every day after school, 16 hours a week, in the latch key program at Union Gap School.
Reyna says her mother didn’t have the opportunity to go to school past the fourth grade in Mexico but always wanted more for her children. So far she’s been very successful: Lourdes graduated from WSU, and Efren from the Art Institute of Seattle.
In the fall, Reyna heads to Pullman to study psychology, with an eye toward becoming a high school counselor.
“What I love about Anjelica’s story,” Longoria says, “is they are the family you want here. They’re the kids you want in class. They’re living the American dream right here in Yakima.”
This is how Reyna sees it: “I’m so blessed to be here and finishing high school and going to college.”
• Jane Gargas can be reached at 509-577-7690 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Student uniforms can be a divisive issue for any school district. Several here in the Yakima Valley have strict dress codes. KIMA found one district saw dramatic improvement in bullying cases.
These students don't have the freedom to express themselves with what they wear at school. Uniforms have been the rule in Union Gap since the fall of 2009. Parents said the change was good.
"When they're focusing on school, they're focused on school,” said Juliana Moreno. “They're not focused on what I need to buy, what I need to have."
Teachers agreed. Stacey Benedetti has taught at Union Gap School for 13 years.
"It eliminates the distractions that come along with that status," said Stacey.
Parents and teachers KIMA spoke with said the school uniforms create a better learning environment. Kids pay less attention to what they wear and can focus more on academics.
KIMA pulled the numbers to see if there's a noticeable difference in not only student performance, but also behavior.
Union Gap School saw a big drop in bullying suspensions after requiring uniforms. Test scores are a different story. KIMA compared eighth and tenth graders for Union Gap and the only two schools in Yakima with a uniform policy in place for more than a year.
In reading, scores were lower for Washington Middle. Union Gap's were generally higher with one exception. Stanton also increased.
In Math, scores were lower for Washington Middle. Union Gap's first two years were lower than before uniforms, but were higher last year. Stanton scores increased as well.
"I see a huge change when the kids aren't so consumed with what they're wearing or what somebody else is wearing," said Juliana.
A change that has shown kids behave better, but doesn't necessarily translate to better grades. Grandview Middle School will students will have uniforms next school year.
YAKIMA --Most of us can remember that one teacher who seemed to have the secret to inspire us to want to learn. Union Gap School has one of those teachers dozens of kids will remember when they have kids. His is not just a history lesson, it's a lesson for life.
It is without question, the one thing that separates good teachers from great: the ability to motivate not just some in the class, but every single student.
Bryan Dibble teaches social studies to 12, 13 and 14 year olds at Union Gap School. And he has found something every teacher wants, a lesson plan that inspires every student in a classroom to shine.
And his is a curriculum created more than a half century ago.
"I like it," says Mr. Dibble. "I'm the teacher so I have to do it everyday. So, if I'm not doing something I like everyday, forget it. I'm gonna go work somewhere else."
A few years ago, Dibble started a journalism class centered on the event that turned a great nation into a super-power. The study of World War II, the people, places, artifacts are a passion for Dibble.
He's turned it into a passion for his students and a weekly newspaper the kids call, "Years of War."
Okay, so dozens of schools across the state produce little newspapers like this. Or do they? "Times of War" now has a circulation of nearly 300. It's sent and read by people in more than a dozen states. Copies go to the National World War Two Museum in New Orleans and one is circulated through the Secretary of Defense's office at the Pentagon.
Every week, Dibble delivers a stack of these newspapers to the Old Town Station family restaurant in Union Gap. And every week they are devoured.
Logan Worsham is the manager. "We have tons of them go out a day and the customers come up to me telling me how much they enjoy it."
Customers like retired school teacher, Mick Zarana.
"Well, I think if these guys continue it's a good start for journalism or maybe your job (laughter). Because if they put this much effort into it maybe they are not doing other things that they shouldn't be doing."
And doing better at the things they should. Breanna Trent was at best, struggling in reading and writing. That was before Mr. Dibble.
Heather Trent is Breanna's mother. "And you can just see night and day. Her WASL scores are up, her reading scores have come up, her comprehension and just overall participation in school and she's just taking pride in her work."
"Ever since I started teaching kids would resist," says Dibble. "We're gonna write an essay, aww! Now, I say we're gonna write an essay. Most of them say oh, what about? That's where it needs to be."
And that's right where it is for Breanna.
"Just knowing that there are some women in World War Two. I like to find them and write about it. I've been reading more and writing more and my teachers have been noticing it and it's been really fun."
And let's not forget there is a tangible reward at the end of this class day.
"Nothing is better than the look of the face of the kid who just got something published. They're like, Yay!"
Bryan Dibble is raising the bar. While hundreds see it each and every week, These kids are just doing what feels good."
Dibble says he will continue to raise that bar. "A 12-year old doesn't know what they're supposed to do. So, if I expect more, hey, just don't tell on me."
If you're interested in getting your own copy of "Years of War", the new issue comes out every Friday.
And there's a stack of them at the Old Town Station at Main and Valley Mall. Keep in mind, they do go fast.
Story Published: Apr 19, 2011 at 6:43 PM PDT
Originally posted on KIMA, located here - http://www.kimatv.com/news/local/120249084.html