Mid-Missouri programs help integrate growing Hispanic communities

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COLUMBIA - Local schools and other programs are offering a helping hand to the growing Hispanic community in Mid-Missouri. According to the Missouri Census Data Center, from the year 2000 to the year 2013, the Hispanic community has grown a little over five percent annually.

Director of El Cambio Center, Steve Jeanetta, said that number is expected to double in the next five to ten years.

"A lot of the families move a lot because of work opportunities," said Jeanetta. "Another challenge is that the schools are trying to figure out where to place these kids and how to provide the right kind of services."

Schools like Rock Bridge High School and Hickman High School provide a program to these students called English Language Learners. Programs like this one, help students combat language barriers and still remain on track for graduation.

This makes it easier for Hispanic people in the community like Jose Mariano, to call mid-Missouri a second home.

"Programs offered to my kids are great," said Mariano. "My daughter is involved in a program in her school where she gets to learn more and where she can integrate herself to learn and understand English."

For research center like El Cambio, this means more opportunities to understand and welcome a different culture.

"We have been studying what it is like for these immigrants to go and enter these places and after we have this information, we ask ourselves how can we use it to integrate our particular community," said Jeanetta.

Jeanetta said they like to focus on the youth as much as possible to see what they are learning and what they are missing.

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