The Atlantic

The Nonwhite Student Behind the White Picket Fence

Racial diversity is rising in America’s suburban public schools, and many institutions are struggling to provide necessary resources.
Source: Jim Young / Reuters

As the nation’s capital continued to clean up from a historic blizzard last winter, five immigrant students—unaccompanied minors who had recently arrived from Central America—walked through almost two feet of snow to Montgomery Blair High School in Montgomery County, Maryland, a close-in Washington, D.C., suburb. Montgomery County Public Schools had canceled classes for students during the weather emergency. But the teens didn’t speak English and, coming from a tropical climate, didn’t know the meaning of a “snow day.” They arrived at the high school shivering and covered in snow from walking in the frigid cold without hats, gloves, or boots. School employees on duty gave them hot drinks, found leftover sweatshirts and hoodies to warm them up, and did their best to stave off hypothermia.

The episode still upsets Maria Portela, an advocate for immigrant students and families and the co-founder of Los Padres, the high school’s Hispanic outreach group. For five years Portela has served as a bridge between Blair’s Spanish-speaking families and school staff

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