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Cottonwood High’s LIA students aim to impact community through service, activities

Mar 07, 2018 09:28AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Cottonwood High School’s Latinos in Action is impacting community through activities including a recent multi-school district talent show. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

While many schools throughout the Salt Lake Valley may host a talent show to showcase the abilities of their students, Cottonwood High’s Latinos in Action (LIA) hosted a multi-school district talent show.

“The audience that we are targeting is the Latino community at large. We have invited each of the high schools in Granite (School) District to participate and anyone is able to present from any of those schools. We also have performers coming from Jordan School District,” Cottonwood High first-year LIA teacher Ben Zaharias said before the Feb. 2 talent show. “The students are taking charge of the event and are lining up all the talent and acts.”

Zaharias said this tradition at Cottonwood has expanded as students get involved with LIA students at other schools.

“In the fall, Granger High held a district-wide cultural night and in April, there are leadership conferences for students throughout the state at the U, WSU and BYU,” he said.

Cottonwood students are hoping to pull together the community not only at the talent show, but also at an upcoming movie night that will be held at the school. While a date has yet to be determined, Zaharias said it would be a family-friendly event.

At the talent show there was a raffle for prizes, and at the movie night, concessions for purchase. All proceeds are marked for buses for field trips as well as LIA supplies, he said.

Through these events, LIA students are hoping to make an impression on the community, Zaharias said.

“The students are in the class not just for the academics, but to learn how to be a leader. They want to interact with others who want to be leaders and raise the awareness of their community within the community as a whole. They want to have a positive impact,” he said.

While many of the students in LIA are Latino, Zaharias said there are some from other nationalities who also want to raise awareness of their communities. Students in the class need to have good attendance and as a guideline, a 2.0 GPA.

Latinos in Action began in 2001 at Timpview High School and has since expanded to 164 schools. This school year, it will expand to a total of six states.

Many students find the service aspect of LIA appealing. By partnering with local elementary schools, LIA students serve as role models, mentors and literacy tutors while they embrace the value of being bilingual, biliterate and bicultural, the website states.

“A lot of students come to the class to tutor. They get a real joy of helping elementary students and those students love it when we come,” he said.

Zaharias teaches six sections of LIA and another teacher instructs a seventh section. The 200 high school students tutor at several area elementary schools: Twin Peaks, Woodstock, Woodrow Wilson, Lincoln, James E. Moss and Oakwood. 

“They’re learning responsibility and how to interact with others. They’re learning how to be professional, tolerant, patient and to have compassion,” he said.

The LIA students help with literacy, mostly helping elementary students on a one-to-one basis.

“When you help someone else, you’re also learning,” Zaharias said.

Students also help with interpreting at schools’ parent-teacher conferences and several help neighbors with raking leaves, removing snow or other community needs. These experiences add up to the 50 hours of service Zaharias requires for the LIA program.

“These students are learning communication, planning, conflict-resolution and how to be an adult, how to lead,” Zaharias said. “It’s a phenomenal leadership class and experience for our students.”

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