Juntxs/Together began in 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. A group of faculty from the University of North Texas (UNT) and Texas Woman’s University (TWU), representatives from the Denton Independent School District’s (DISD) Bilingual/Dual Language & English as a Second Language Program, and Denton, Texas, community stakeholders came together and asked the question: How can we help families and students navigate the schooling challenges brought by COVID-19?
Juntxs/Together involves the implementation of a school district/university partnership that provides virtual support for emergent bilingual students and their families in the form of a Bilingual Homework Hotline (BHH). The BHH connects university and K-12 students via Zoom to provide academic, emotional, linguistic, and cultural support while championing the school district’s college-going initiatives. Our interdisciplinary team relies on existing resources, knowledge, and skills to address the urgent need to support bilingual students and families.
Today, emergent bilingual students represent about 15.82% of the total enrollment in DISD and the district continues to receive more newcomer students, who are mostly Central American and Venezuelan migrants. Because of this increased need for the BHH we are constantly asking how else can we help.
Each semester the BHH has about 80 college students participate as helpers and devote at least 2 hours per week for about 9 weeks assisting emergent bilingual students with math, reading, science, and other subjects. During the 2022-2023 school year helpers assisted with 2,485 calls and in the Fall of 2023 the helpers assisted with about 1,028 sessions. The demand for virtual assistance with homework and the number of calls continues to increase, despite the fact that the school district returned to full in-person instruction in 2021.
In addition to the mentoring sessions, Juntxs involves additional programs and projects to respond to the needs of DISD parents and students. These programs include workshops about the transition from high school to college for undocumented students, virtual reading groups focusing on libros acompañantes/ accompanying books (books that accompany the identities, realities, and experiences of emergent bilinguals), and mother-led parent support workshops (P’alante).
Our ongoing collaboration has become a space of acompañamiento virtual/virtual accompaniment. Beyond helping DISD students with homework the BHH empowers bilingual students and families to feel connected and engaged. Connectivity and togetherness, working juntxs, are the values that nurture our goals to provide homework assistance to students, help parents navigate the virtual educational terrain, encourage a college-going atmosphere, and show pride in students’ bilingualism, specifically their home language and cultural heritage. We are inspired and guided by working juntxs across two universities and a school district, as our collaboration critically listens and engages in praxis in serving the Denton comunidad/community. Through critical dialogue and contributions, we continue to nurture the necessary trust/confianza to “do’’ social justice/cariño/heartwork on the ground with the comunidad.
¡Solo es posible juntxs!/it is only possible together!