image-pesc immigration project
Pescadero High School students have made trips to Stanford University to learn about library resources that might be helpful in their research around immigration issues. Photo courtesy Randy Vail

Dictators and drug lords, “narcoculture,” CIA operations, fake news, the Mexican-American War and the history of the U.S. immigration policy are a few of the ongoing research projects in Pescadero High School’s 10th-grade world history class. 

The project originated with a library access grant from the Center for Latin American Studies and Stanford University Libraries. Pescadero High School was the first application received from and awarded to a high school teacher, as the grants are usually given to college faculty. 

The $2,500 grant has funded two field trips to Stanford so that students can learn about the resources in the Latin American Collection of the library. The students will prepare a research paper and class presentation about a topic related to the historical factors that may be contributing to the current immigration crisis. 

“We’re looking forward to seeing how his students’ projects are developing, and we hope these research visits have inspired (Pescadero High School) students to see themselves as scholars who are capable of engaging with higher education and Latin American Studies,” said Molly Aufdermauer, public engagement coordinator with the Center for Latin American Studies in an email. 

Last year, Principal Kevin Allen’s history class was the first group of students to research the “historical antecedents of the current immigration crisis,” which is the theme of the project. 

Allen said, for many students, the library tour, which included seeing artifacts from Latin American history, helped them connect to the past.

“The nightly news doesn’t really capture things in a historical context,” Allen said. “They just say this is what’s going on. You would think history started yesterday or that day.”

For some students, it was just another assignment, but Allen said some became passionate as they delved into their research.

“It reinforced to these kids that history didn’t start yesterday,” Allen said. “There’s a story behind the story, and maybe you should go uncover it.”

Randy Vail, who is teaching the class this year and wrote the grant application, said the topic has a personal connection to many of his students. 

“It’s a hot-button issue for a lot of kids,” he said. “... I just had this idea that this is a relevant way to try to explore the importance of history.”

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