RGV PUEDE was founded in 2016 when two UTRGV philosophy professors—Dr. Alex Stehn and Dr. Mariana Alessandri—began organizing RGV parents who were interested in learning more about the dual language bilingual education programs available in Rio Grande Valley public schools. Alex and Mariana want their young children (Santiago and Sebastián) to be a part of a new generation of RGV students who love both Spanish and English. PUEDE believes that RGV schools should teach students to speak, read, and write academically in both English and Spanish, using methods that are grounded in the RGV’s rich cultural history. Decades of peer-reviewed research studies have shown that Dual Language programs increase student learning and success in English with the added bonus that students also become bilingual, bicultural, and biliterate in Spanish. In sum, Dual Language programs outperform both English-only programs and other “bilingual” programs like early exit and ESL. Dual language programs also close the achievement gap by increasing the academic performance of all students, regardless of whether they enter school speaking Spanish or English.
PUEDE’s mission is to organize parents, families, and communities to support, improve, and extend dual language programs from Pre-K to 12th across the RGV. We are also working to change what “college ready” means in the RGV in keeping with UTRGV’s mission to transform the RGV and the world by becoming a bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural university. So, in addition to working with local school districts, PUEDE works with Dr. Joy Esquierdo, the Director of UTRGV’s Center for Bilingual Studies, and Dr. Dania López García, the Interim Executive Director of UTRGV’s B3 (Bilingual, Bicultural, Biliterate) Institute.
The RGV districts that offer dual-language programs in some of their schools include PSJA, La Joya, McAllen, Harlingen, Mission, Rio Grande City, Hidalgo, Donna, and San Benito. Up until very recently only PSJA went beyond 5th grade, but PUEDE has been working to change that, and we are excited to report that McAllen ISD, La Joya ISD, and Harlingen CISD have taken leadership roles in providing a quality dual-language education through middle school and hopefully through high school in the future.
RGV PUEDE currently has about 500 members, with the highest concentration in McAllen, but we are helping other districts organize their own PUEDE chapters (e.g., PSJA PUEDE, Harlingen PUEDE etc.). This is one of the goals of the annual dual language parent conference we host in partnership with UTRGV’s Center for Bilingual Studies. Small groups of parents and administrators from each RGV district that currently offers dual language as well as community organizers from LUPE and ARISE work in small groups to make plans about how to sustain and increase parent involvement and community support for dual language education in their own districts. Since each district is in a different phase, we learn from each other’s successes and failures, but all members of RGV PUEDE share an overarching vision: the future of education in the RGV is bilingual, bicultural, and biliterate, from pre-K to PhD or MD.