Unprecedented Steps

June 15, 2005

No one in Hilda Galvan's family could show her how to graduate from high school on Friday night or how to get there in the four years preceding it. They couldn't show her how to write a solid thesis, solve a geometric proof or how to study for all those quizzes and tests that add into a single credit.

No one in her family had ever finished high school before, much less attended it.

Circumstance had offered her parents and four older siblings just enough time to complete sixth grade before it moved each of them out of the classroom and into the fields.

That was nearly a decade ago, back in Churintzio, Michoacan.

Since then, the Galvans had moved to Hood River in search of a better life. They found it in the orchards. Young Hilda, only 10 at the time, found it in school.

"When I came here I didn't have to work," Galvan says. "I have more opportunity to continue."

She learned English, math and science here. And on Friday evening, she learned how to graduate.

Galvan was one of 51 Hood River Valley High School graduates, who snapped a long and persistent generational chain of illiteracy by earning a high school diploma. Nearly all were students who, on top of core classes, also had to learn English as a second language.

"A lot of these kids stayed here till 5 p.m. after school," said Dave Fults, an English Language Learners (ELL) teacher at Hood River Valley High School. "A lot of these kids took the late bus home."

They climb the same stairs at graduation and cross the same platform. For many first-in-their-family graduates, however, the journey to that hallowed ceremony is much different than for their peers.

After the bell rings and the students fill the hallways on their ways home, many ELL students head into another classroom to learn how to pronounce and read English.

And when they are done there, some return to homes, whose parents have abandoned for the winter.

Inevitably, circumstance tugs many away from their studies and school.

Many drop out.

This year, Hood River Valley High School officials requested in their morning bulletin that every student who would be the first in his or her respective families to graduate please visit the front office.

Fifty one came.

"I feel the payoff is finally coming," said Hood River Vally co-principal Steve Fisk. "For 13 years they'd only come for one or two months. Now there are kids that are making it. Every one of these kids that's graduating is going on. High School isn't the end."

Galvan is going on to Columbia Gorge Community College. And now her younger sister, the baby of the family, wants to finish high school as well.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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