“Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community,” it reads, in part, “to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.”
I was in Miami this week for a conference (the Knight Media Forum
), and the campus was just down the street from my hotel. Miami Dade, with eight campuses and more than 165,000 students, is one of the nation’s largest colleges, and I’d never been.
Students were grabbing a bite to eat and finishing up some work before evening classes. Everyone I ended up talking with was an immigrant — from Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua. One in a skills-oriented certificate program, working toward an associate degree at the same time. Another planning to be an industrial engineer, getting in two years of college here, close to home, before transferring. A third taking non-credit classes to learn English so she can take a board exam to practice as a physician again (as she did back home).
Many things drew them here — cost, proximity, specific programs. One thing stood out about why they stay and what they appreciate: People at Miami Dade are helpful in ways they say other people aren’t. They give them next steps. They lay out a path. They make them feel welcome.
It reminded me of something Sarah Carr,
an education editor at The Boston Globe
, recently told me.
One thing that’s struck her, in decades of education reporting, has been this: Over and over, students at community colleges have told her how comfortable they feel there. Even when they are in the minority, she said, those students seem to feel less culturally estranged. It made her feel that community colleges should be covered more.
For Mariam, a 20-year-old Miami Dade student who arrived from Venezuela two years ago, there was something even more concrete that made her feel at home on campus.
The artwork? It’s by Carlos Cruz-Diez
, a Venezuelan artist. There’s a version of it on a street where she’s from.