To further students’ progress in the classroom, Dr. Sarah Straub, assistant professor of elementary education, created the Bilingual Education Student Organization in January 2019. This organization was created to help bring awareness to educators to make each student’s learning environment fair and equal, no matter their background. It is mainly tailored for bilingual students who major in education.

“The organization was started for two reasons: our current bilingual students did not have a place in our University that celebrated this, and the demographics of Texas are changing and the need for bilingual educators is extremely high,” Straub said. “The goals are to provide a space for students to celebrate their culture and their bilingualism. We provide opportunities for service, professional development and fellowship.”

BESO is for any student who speaks English and Spanish and has an interest in education.

“As the priority is to help develop the skills necessary to be strong bilingual educators, that should also be a personal goal of a member,” Straub said.

This semester, the organization will be prioritizing preparation for the Bilingual Target Language Proficiency Test, which is one of two additional certification examinations that bilingual educators need to take. They also video conference with representatives from Vanderbilt University.

“As an officer in BESO, we reach out to teachers or directors to let them know who we are and what we stand for,” Vice President Miriam Lira said.

Currently, members do not pay any dues. The organization has a monthly meeting on the first Monday of the month at 5:30 p.m., a minimum of one monthly service opportunity with Lufkin ISD or Absolutely Fiction and at least one social opportunity hosted by OMA and the Nacogdoches Library. The social opportunities are two events hosted by the OMA and the Nacogdoches Public Library. The service opportunities are primarily based on partnerships with Lufkin ISD, as well as Absolutely Fiction, a bookstore in Lufkin that allows the organization to do a bilingual story time every third Saturday of each month at 10:30 a.m.

“BESO has made me so much more aware of problems in the education system that are truly flawed,” treasurer Sofia Martinez, a human development and family studies major from New Caney, said.

According to Martinez, the group helped to make her a better leader and advocate for Spanish-speaking students, as well as helped her to learn what would have been her native language.

“We made our voices heard. Now, people are listening and seeing that there are changes and new things that need to be established,” Martinez said. “Ideally, our main goal in a classroom would be to not let the children lose their native language, [like] many students who do go through ESL. I want people to know that we are not 100% where we want to be. We are still working on BESO and what we can do better.”

The officers will be headed to Corpus Christi next week to present at the Texas Association for Bilingual Education Conference. They will network with BESO chapters around Texas and learn more about how to advocate for themselves and other future students.

“We are here to make an impact at Stephen F. Austin State University and to hopefully influence other students to join us,” said Lira. “We are here to stand with those students that never received the help they needed when they were younger. We are here to make a change for our future educators and to prosper together towards the best education for our students.”

“To be a member of BESO means you have to be courageous,” said Martinez. “You have to be the change for those who can’t speak up for themselves. For those who don’t know what’s going on, but may be putting their child through those courses because they feel like it’s better for them. We are empowering the multicultural spectrum of education that not many people feel the need to touch on.”

BESO will be attending the Dia de los Muertos event hosted by the Nacogdoches Public Library on Saturday, Nov. 2. For more information on the organization, follow them on Instagram @2019beso.

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