Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Stepping Forward

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa! Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!

An article in The Argus concerning the luncheon organized by James Logan High School's Punjabi Club, Punjabi Sports Club, and Sikh Forum for the school staff.

I found this highly amusing, as well as somewhat interesting. Of course, I don't know how to explain why.. I guess you just kind of had to be there. haha I can't believe my picture got put up.. worst person to pick to put in the newspaper hehe.


Sikh community, James Logan form bond

UNION CITY — When two boys at James Logan High School fought on campus this fall, Principal Don Montoya asked a teacher to call the students' parents in for a meeting. Then he asked the teacher to translate.

Harpaul Singh Rana made the call and sat in on the meeting, switching between Punjabi and English to explain to the boys' parents what happened at school.

"They were able to resolve it," said Rana, who teaches Punjabi classes at the school. If he hadn't been at the meeting to translate, however, there might have been a misunderstanding between the school and the parents, he said. And then, "the problem doesn't get resolved."

On a high school campus where students speak dozens of languages, communication between parents and school staff is key — and often challenging. But according to Rana and other Sikh parents, the linguistic and cultural gulf between Punjabi-speaking families and the school is starting to shrink, a phenomenon many credit to the school's Punjabi classes, offered for the first time this fall.

About 95 students are enrolled in Rana's classes, and he anticipates that figure will swell next year. Most of his students are from Punjabi-speaking families, but others are Latino or from southern India, he said.

The Bay Area is considered the heart of Sikh America, with about 500,000

Sikhs living here and an estimated 250 Sikh students at Logan. Sikhs speak Punjabi and most live in northwest India and Pakistan. The Sikh religion is considered the fifth-largest in the world.

Each day at Logan, Rana teaches three periods of Punjabi, and he stays on campus until 6 p.m., tutoring and counseling students, especially recent Sikh immigrants struggling to learn English and navigate a new school and country.

"It helps the students see they have a home," he said. "They are able to join the mainstream more quickly."

Adding the classes to Logan's course offerings, however, was not an immediate success.

In 2004, parent Sarabjit Cheema led the charge, but the course was dropped because not enough students signed up.

This year, when students again were given the option to sign up, Cheema invited Montoya to the gurdwara, or Sikh temple, in Fremont, to talk to parents about the program.

Montoya visited the temple twice, once on a Sunday afternoon, and spoke from the podium. At least three Punjabi-language newspapers in the United States covered his visit, running photographs from the meeting, Cheema said.

"(We) established, I think, some rapport that wouldn't have been established otherwise," Montoya said.

For Cheema, the meetings led directly to a shift in the relationship between members of the temple and the school. Last month, as a thank you to the school for adding Punjabi, student members of Logan's Punjabi Club, Sikh Forum and Punjabi Sports Club served a free lunch to Logan teachers. Students talked to the faculty about Sikh

But for Cheema, a former mathematics and science teacher in India, the work is just beginning. She already is looking to next year, when she plans to establish a Punjabi-speaking parent group at the school.

She knows Sikh students who skip school and fight occasionally and said she spoke recently with a devastated mother who discovered her son ditched class regularly. The parent didn't know what to do, Cheema said.

There appears to be sincere interest in establishing such a group. When the New Haven school district recommended that a Sikh student at Logan be expelled after fighting with another boy, 25 members of Fremont's Sikh temple attended the meeting to urge the board to reconsider, saying the student earned top grades, was a recent immigrant and had no prior offenses.

The board dropped the expulsion.

"We should, as parents and a community, have some kind of voice in the school system," Cheema said. "When (parents) feel they have a stake in the system it makes them more responsible."

Sarabjit Aunti Ji is so cute.. my next post will be about politics.. whoopeee.. *pbfftt*.. of course that will be in about a week or so, when I return from Los Angeles. Until then.. : )

bhull chuk maaf

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa! Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!

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