“It is a leadership and mentoring network that we want to establish in the Portuguese-American community at a national level, through the State University of California, Fresno, and the Instituto Português Além-Fronteiras”, said the president of the Institute, Diniz Borges.
The goals are to “connect, recognise and empower educators through the establishment of mentoring opportunities, advocacy on behalf of Luso-American education leaders, promoting panels and debates on the role of education in the 21st century and promoting cultural awareness”.
PAELN includes Ashley Fagundes, academic advisor at California State University of Fresno, and Linda Carvalho-Cooley, professor of communication at Reedley College and the University of Fresno.
As part of the launch, the network has started a form available for educators who want to become members anywhere in the country.
“It will be a great way for us to connect and celebrate our Portuguese heritage, which is incredibly important and a history we don't want to lose”, said Linda Carvalho-Cooley.
"Another positive aspect is keeping the teaching of culture alive," she said. “I think one of the things we can do is have discussions about the history of our rituals, our symbols, and why they are important to us.”
One of the purposes, she described, will be to exchange ideas about methods and initiatives with good results that teachers are experimenting.
“I want it to be educational for us, for everyone to draw personal knowledge and to serve as a space for connection,” she said. “Having arguments is fascinating. There are many Portuguese-American educators doing this work, why not find a way to connect us? It is what other ethnic groups already do.”
Ashley Fagundes also stressed that the networking and mutual learning component will be important. “It's definitely a necessary thing,” she considered. “We may not be the biggest minority group, but I think a lot of people would be surprised by the number of Portuguese in education”.
In California, several Portuguese-Americans are in leadership positions in education, especially the Portuguese immigrant Alberto Carvalho, who recently assumed the position of superintendent of the Los Angeles unified school district, the second largest in the United States, with more than 660 thousand students.
Counsellor Ashley Fagundes also stated that the creation of this network will open the door to many opportunities, “both for students and people working in education”.