Canyon County

Syringa Middle School principal, staff host ‘Cowboy Fiesta’ for school’s Latino families

A scene from “Cowboy Fiesta,” a party aimed at reaching out to Latino families with children who attend Syringa Middle School in Caldwell. The party took place Friday at the home of principal Shay Swan, far right.
A scene from “Cowboy Fiesta,” a party aimed at reaching out to Latino families with children who attend Syringa Middle School in Caldwell. The party took place Friday at the home of principal Shay Swan, far right.

Every year, teachers at Syringa Middle School in Caldwell make goals for improving the school. A lot of their ideas have to do with streamlining processes inside the classroom.

English as a Second Language teacher Tim Hildebrand took a different approach this year. A persistent gap lies between Latino families with kids at Syringa and the rest of the parents, students and staff, Hildebrand said. In a school that’s more than 50 percent Latino, he said, that’s a big problem.

To make America great takes people who live in communities making their communities better.

Caldwell teacher Tim Hildebrand

Hildebrand said his goal this year has been to bridge that gap. He starting setting up get-to-know-you events in hopes of accomplishing it. The first few outreach events took place at the school. Not many people came.

So Hildebrand changed strategies. He traded the school’s institutional space for a park. It worked. Turnout was far better. Hildebrand thinks it was because the park was a more neutral — not to mention fun — setting.

On Friday, he and principal Shay Swan took that idea another step. Swan hosted a “Cowboy Fiesta” event at his house. Hildebrand and Syringa reading intervention specialist Renee Hamby helped organize.

“Activities included riding horses, cooking and eating tacos, a fire with s’mores and a pinata,” Hildebrand wrote in a summary of the party for the Idaho Statesman.

Hildebrand said about 70 people came to the party, making it the best-attended Latino outreach event he’s put together. It was scheduled before last week’s election, he said, but Donald Trump’s victory, which caused some Latinos to worry about their futures in America, motivated the organizers a little bit more.

“There was definitely an extra incentive for us to kind of represent what we felt like good community looks like,” Hildebrand said. “Look, to make America great takes people who live in communities making their communities better.”

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