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The Mind Trust hopes to expand cultural awareness with new school

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana organization The Mind Trust is taking the first steps to create a school focused on providing representation in classrooms for Latino students.

Organizers said the Latino population continues to grow and, in Indianapolis Public Schools, Latinos make up more than 30% of the student body. But, very rarely do Latinos have teachers who look like them, speak their language, and can navigate potential cultural differences.

Indianapolis is considered a diverse place to live, and that diversity is represented in the thousands of students who go to the schools.

Brandon Brown, chief executive officer of The Mind Trust, said Thursday, “Our city, our state, our country has for too long not prioritized ensuring that our educators reflect the rich diversity of our students.”

While education is important, everyone doesn’t learn the same or can’t learn the same, and it’s often the language or cultural barrier. About 73% of IPS students are students of color and about 31% are Latino, according to data from IPS. Most of their teachers are white.

“And it’s not that white educators can’t do a great job with students of color but what we’ve learned from research and lived experience is kids need to see windows and mirrors,” Brown said. “They need to see themselves in their educators so they have a clear example of what to aspire to.”

The Mind Trust Innovation School Fellowship is working to create a space where more kids can have access to high-quality education. Francisco Valdiosera is the Innovation School fellow behind the plans to develop a middle school focused on Latino culture appreciation and cultural competency for students from all backgrounds.

“Our school will be standards-based, and the education our students will receive will be really no different than your private school or your other charter schools or any of the other options,” Valdiosera said. “The difference here will be then we will be culturally responsive to the needs of all students at the school.”

With roughly 20 years in education, he knows the value of this move and that it’s important to take skills students may already have, such as speaking a different language, and leverage that.

“Speaking another language, seen as a detriment to the student, when in fact we believe it is an asset,” Valdiosera said.

It’s going to take about a year and a half to get the school open. So far, organizers haven’t nailed down a location but plan to put in in an area with a high Latino concentration.