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Cultural Immersion

Shanice Kiett
AHS 8100
Prof. Linda Payne
April 19, 2015

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Cultural Immersion
We are, at almost every point of our day, immersed in cultural diversity: face, clothes, smells,
attitudes, values, traditions, behaviours, beliefs, rituals. Randa Abdel-Fattah
The first, most essential step in the process of selection of a population to study was to
determine the populations served by my agency. My agency, Edward T. Steel Elementary School
serves school age children of all races, religions, genders, social class, and ability. While they
service a wide range of populations, the predominant populations that they serve are African
Americans, which I identify with. The school demographics are as follows: 94.1% African
Americans, 0.7% White, 0% Asian, 2% Hispanic, and 3.2% other. The school also has a fairly
high special needs population which range from behavioral to intellectual disabilities. While I do
not directly identify with the behavioral and/or intellectual populations, I deal with them both in
my professional and personal life. I choose to identify with the Hispanic population since they
are a population I do not identify with, and I had easy access to. The population that identified
with other was difficult during my internship hours to identify. Due to the fact that the population
was children, I choose to speak to the parents as well as the child to assist in the interview
process.
Hispanics
Hispanics as defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are a person of
Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin,
regardless of race (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
According to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates as of July 1, 2013, there are
roughly 54 million Hispanics living in the United States, representing approximately 17% of the

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U.S. total population, making people of Hispanic origin the nation's largest ethnic or race
minority (CDC).
In the Hispanic population, language remains a huge obstacle to many Hispanics
participating fully in American life. One in five Hispanics in the U.S. report that they do not
speak English or they do not speak English well. One would think in a nation of immigrants such
as the U.S. that how to learn a language and adapt to a new culture would be well understood.
But it is not. In fact, language and culture have been described as a wall that Hispanic students
in the U.S. must get over to enter the society of the school. And if they do not overcome it in the
early years of schooling, the wall grows higher and thicker with each succeeding year (National
Education Association, 2006).
Cultural Immersion Film
For my cultural immersion experiences I chose to view a film related to the Hispanic
culture as well as interview an individual of the Hispanic culture. I chose to view several short
films that are related to the Hispanic culture and education since my agencys primary goal is to
educate the children that walk through their doors every day. In the end I chose one that I felt
spoke to my population better. In conducting my interview, I chose to speak with the parents of a
student to bring my cultural immersion experience together as one. I also interviewed the parents
of the student because they could better answer my questions, and due to issues of consent.
The first film viewed ironically was titled Immersion by director Richard Levien. The
short film centered on Moises an immigrant struggling with fitting into his new school
environment. We are introduced to Moises and his family which consists of an older brother,
father, and mother at the kitchen table at 5:30am. Moisess older brother who also works at the
school as a janitor, walks with him to school before the sun is even out and Moises waits outside

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school until it is time to begin. Throughout the film we see Moises struggling because he is really
good at math, but is during the exams he needs to take there is nothing but English. While his
teacher tries to help by finding a Spanish exam, but there are none. At one point in the film
Moises flash back at his mother and his crossing of the border. This appears to drive Moises to
try his best despite the obstacles in his way. But when he gets to the word problems, he appears
defeated. He glances to the window to find his brother who gives him thumbs up and continues
to clean the school windows. To me it appears to foreshadow his future. Moises dedication to his
education is reflective of data from the National Education Association that states that education
matters more to Hispanics than any other political issue (pp. 13, 2006)
Cultural Immersion Interview
When conducting my interview with the family, I tried to select questions that both
helped explain more about the Hispanic Culture but also helped understand their feeling, beliefs
and customs in regards to my agencys primary focus, education.
The parents that I spoke to had both came from Puerto Rico when they younger with their
parents, knowing only little English. It was through school system and ESOL program that the
two parents learned how to speak English more fluently.
In regards to the parents jobs, the father works in construction, seven days a week and
mom, is a stay at home mom raising five children. Only two of the five children are school age,
and the price of daycare is too expensive for the family to afford. During the interview the father
and mother agreed that they believed that it was the fathers job to provide, mothers job to take
care of the home and children and the children were to learn and do well and school, in hopes
that they will do better than their parents. However, the mother stated that she would work once
the children were all of school age.

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The parents explained that back in Puerto Rico that the families were very tight knit and
everyone in the family helped in raising the children. Since coming over when they were
younger with their parents, more and more family members have come, but their grandparents
have remained. In regards to child rearing and discipline, the family insisted on a level of respect
from their children towards all adults.
Excellent parents to the parent interviewed were those that kept their children content,
educated, well mannered, and respectable. If the children were successful in education and
business that made them even better and more proud parents. The parents expressed the
importance of college, as they were unable to attend. The children are the future of the family.
Edward T. Steel Elementary Schools Cultural Competence
Community: The community that Steel is located is predominately African American;
however one can find many bodega and Asian owned store on a corner on nearly every block.
Access: Access to Steel Elementary by the Hispanic population is primarily done by
school bus, car, or walking since it is a neighborhood school.
Receptivity: If a member of the Hispanic culture or any of culture I would not feel
welcomed or comfortable. I believe to some extent that the Hispanic population would feel
reflected in dcor and color schemes but not in the staff. The staff and teachers are predominately
African American, with a small amount of Caucasians. The literature that is available is not
available in both Spanish and English so if there was a Hispanic family who had difficulties with
the English language nothing is there to ease this barrier.
Administration and Staff Training: From conversations with teachers and staff at Steel. I
have learned that there is training on cultural sensitivity, especially on the part of the teachers.

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Most if not all of the teachers should have went through training that dealt with teacher students
from different backgrounds and cultures.
Funding: The School District of Philadelphia has set aside funding for programs such as
English for Speaker of Other Language (ESOL), Transitional Bilingual Education (TBE), Dual
Language Program, Newcomer Learning Academy (NLA) and Multilingual Assessment Center.
These programs along with the Taskforce for Racial and Cultural Harmony ensure that
populations such as Hispanics are assimilated.
Staff Sensitivity: In regards to the Hispanic Culture at Steel Elementary, I feel that
because it is so small from compared to that of African American they are overlooked in many
ways. Due to this I feel that the staff could easily overlook the need of the Hispanic population. I
do feel that the staff is respectful of all population served, not only the Hispanic population.
Effort: Steel invites parents and community members to share their opinions and feelings
in regards to decisions that will be made at Steel Elementary and anything that will affect the
neighborhood. The School District of Philadelphia as well conducts community meetings and
extended outreach to hear on the proposed recommendations. The most notable decision I that I
have learned about during my time at the internship was the effort put forth to allow the parents
and community to decide if Steel would be made into a renaissance school. Due to the opinions
of the students, parents, families, and communities, Steel remained with the School District.
Quality: In my opinion Steel does not evaluate their school atmosphere to ensure that it
is culturally congruence and sensitive to the Hispanic population. I again believe that the
population is overlooked, and if not they are so assimilated into the African American culture
that the staff do not realize the need for cultural congruence and sensitivity.

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Effectiveness: From my understanding there are no unmet needs that the Hispanic
population is in need of. Due to the small amount of Hispanics both in the neighborhood and
school, as well as the assimilation factor, it is hard to determine if there is an actual need.
Efficiency: The agency has reached out and coordinated with other organizations not
necessarily to address the needs of the Hispanic population but the overall students needs.
NASW Standards for Cultural Competence
NASW for Cultural Competence, Standard 2: Self-Awareness: Social workers shall seek
to develop an understanding of their own personal, cultural values and beliefs as one way of
appreciating the importance of multicultural identities in the lives of people. In order for myself
as human service professional to understand, expand, and serve individuals with beliefs, values,
and cultures other than mine, must be aware of myself an how my beliefs could affect the
individuals I serve. The teachers and staff of Steel should have the same self-awareness, as they
may have a more influential impact of the children they serve lives then I do in some capacity.
NASW for Cultural Competence, Standard 3: Cross-Cultural Knowledge- Social workers
shall have and continue to develop specialized knowledge and understanding about the history,
traditions, values, family systems, and artistic expressions of major client groups that they serve.
It is imperative that I as a human service professional continue to learn about different culture to
be able to effectively serve, as well as understand why some things may be more important than
others to particular population. This is especially important in respect to Steel. It is important that
the staff and teachers are culturally aware of the values of the populations served so that they can
better understand the needs and or behaviors of the children they are serving.
NASW for Cultural Competence, Standard 10: Social workers shall be able to
communicate information about diverse client groups to other professionals. It is important to

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communicate to individuals in general. It is equally if not important if not more that I as a human
service worker be able to communicate effectively to the clients I serve. It is also important that
steel know that the populations they serve understand all communications made be they verbal or
print.
NOHS Ethical Standards for Human Professional
NOHS Standards 11: Human service professionals are knowledgeable about their
cultures and communities within which they practice. They are aware of multiculturalism in
society and its impact on the community as well as individuals within the community. They
respect the cultures and beliefs of individuals and groups; and NOHS Standard 34: Human
service professionals are aware of their own cultural backgrounds, beliefs, values, and biases.
They recognize the potential impact of their backgrounds on their relationships with others and
work diligently to provide culturally competent service to their entire client (National
Organization for Human Services) are reflective of NASW standards 2 and 3.
NOHS Standard 37: Human service educators develop and implement culturally sensitive
knowledge, awareness, and teaching methodologies. I believe this I very important in regards to
the teachers and staff at Steel. I also makes me reflect on the film Immersion where Moises did
not receive the knowledge he so wanted due to the teaching methodologies in place.
NOHS Standard 38: Human service educators are committed to the principles of access
and inclusion and take all available and applicable steps to make education available to
differently-abled students. This Standard also males me reflect on the film Immersion where the
teacher attempted to implement the steps for Moises to be included but the materials needed
were unavailable. It is important that the staff and teachers at Steel are able to identify, assess,
and apply the necessary steps for inclusion and immersion, when necessary.

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My final thought in completing the cultural immersion experience and as the internship
comes to an end. I find that while the School District of Philadelphia has the necessary programs
in place for the individual schools to access, I do not believe that the many cultures served have
full access to those services and programs. I feel that while trained to serve a diverse population
of individuals, the staff and teachers at Steel have lost sight and cater to the African American
population, leaving the small percentage of minorities to fend for them.

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References
(n.d.). Retrieved April 18, 2015, from
https://www.socialworkers.org/practice/standards/NASWCulturalStandardsIndicators2006.pdf

Ethical Standards for Human Service Professionals. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2015, from
http://www.nationalhumanservices.org/ethical-standards-for-hs-professionals

Verdugo, R. (2006). A Report on the Status of Hispanics in Education: Overcoming a History of


Neglect. National Education Association.

(2015, February 3). Retrieved April 18, 2015, from


http://www.cdc.gov/minorityhealth/populations/REMP/hispanic.html

Immersion [Motion picture]. (2009). Widdershins Films.