Special Report
Equity & Diversity

Cuban-Born Student Readjusts to Miami’s Cuban Culture

By Christina A. Samuels — June 01, 2012 3 min read
Lisbet Ascon, 18, back center, does warm-up exercises during beginning-choral class at Miami Coral Park High School in Miami. The junior, who is Cuban-born, grew up in Cuba and Chile before moving to the United States when she was 16.

Listening to 18-year-old Lisbet Ascon today, one would be hard pressed to imagine her as a shy 16-year-old, protesting when her English-as-a-second-language teacher tried to get her to talk in class.

Born in Cuba and educated both in that island nation and in Chile, where she attended middle school, Ascon had taken some English classes, but not enough to feel comfortable when plunged into an English-only school after moving to the Miami-Dade County school system two years ago.

“I was scared of what people were saying, so I didn’t speak anything,” Ascon says. "[My teacher said] talk, you have to talk! I said, ‘No, I don’t want to'—but I said it in Spanish, you know?”

But with support from her teachers and a healthy dose of determination, Ascon made it past her own diffidence, honing her English skills well enough to pass the Florida Comprehensive Assessment tests required for high school graduation on her first try. Now heading into her senior year at Miami Coral Park High School, Ascon already has one Advanced Placement class to her credit in Spanish language, and hopes to enroll in Spanish Literature and in AP Chemistry in her senior year. She sees a science career in her future, but in what science field, she’s not sure.

“Now I’m doing chemistry, the regular class, and I love it so much,” she says. “Last year, I did biology and I love it so much, too, so now I’m completely confused. But definitely no physics,” she says, laughing.

Ascon entered Miami-Dade schools with some advantages. She comes from a highly educated, middle-class background: Her mother is an engineer, and her father is trained as a mathematics and science teacher. Both of her parents are taking English classes to improve their own skills.

“They always encourage me to go to school; since I was little, they were always very concerned about school and activities,” says Ascon, who also has a 9-year-old sister, Sabrina. (“She speaks English like an American girl,” Ascon says of her sibling.)

But moving around has presented some challenges. Her family moved to Chile so her father could pursue better opportunities. In 2010, the fear caused by the Chilean earthquake was the final push for her family to move once again, this time to Miami, where they already had relatives.

By that time, Ascon said she had forgotten some of the unique vocabulary of Cuban Spanish that she knew as a young child. Her high school has a few Chilean students, but she had to adjust to Cuban culture once again. And even though her English was good enough to have her placed in an intermediate-level class when she arrived in Miami, Ascon laughs when she remembers registering for school with her parents using only “drawings and signs.” Her skills have developed so much that she now finds herself in the role of cheerleader for her friends who are still learning the language.

Ascon has found herself around a number of students who, like herself, are high achievers. Miami Coral Park is number eight in the country in the number of Hispanic students scoring 3 and above on Advanced Placement tests; an additional five Miami-Dade high schools are also on that top-ten nationwide list. The school is about 97 percent Hispanic.

Her parents don’t need to hound her about her grades: Ascon says that she prefers to keep good grades to herself, but lets her parents know quickly if she’s struggling in a class. “I think it’ll be worse if I hide,” she says.

But Ascon says she doesn’t talk much about her achievements. “I don’t think as much about what people do around me. We all have a different talent that God has given us,” she says.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Strategies & Tips for Complex Decision-Making
Schools are working through the most disruptive period in the history of modern education, facing a pandemic, economic problems, social justice issues, and rapid technological change all at once. But even after the pandemic ends,

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Why Two Superintendents of Mostly White Districts Are Actively Fighting Anti-Black Racism
Predominantly white school districts across the country have started addressing systemic racism in the classroom, but not every district is doing it, and those who are brace for backlash.
5 min read
Outdoor education teacher Mark Savage challenges his students with a game in class at Brewer High School in Brewer, Maine on April 30, 2021.
Outdoor education teacher Mark Savage challenges his students with a game in class at Brewer High School in Brewer, Maine in April.
Linda Coan O’Kresik for Education Week
Equity & Diversity What Black Men Need From Schools to Stay in the Teaching Profession
Only 2 percent of teachers are Black men. Three Black male educators share their views on what's behind the statistic.
Equity & Diversity Opinion Researchers Agree the Pandemic Will Worsen Testing Gaps. But How Much?
Without substantial investment in their learning, the life chances of children from low-income families are threatened.
Drew H. Bailey, Greg J. Duncan, Richard J. Murnane & Natalie Au Yeung
4 min read
a boy trying to stop domino effect provoked by coronavirus pandemic
Feodora Chiosea/iStock/Getty Images
Equity & Diversity Opinion The Chauvin Verdict Is in. Now What?
Justice has been served in the murder of George Floyd, but educators must recommit to the fight for racial equity, writes Tyrone C. Howard.

Tyrone C. Howard
4 min read
People gather at Cup Foods after a guilty verdict was announced at the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 death of George Floyd, on April 20, 2021, in Minneapolis, Minn. Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted of murder and manslaughter in the death of Floyd.
Following the announcement of the guilty verdicts in the George Floyd murder trial this week, people gather outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis.<br/>
Morry Gash/AP