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The Forgotten Americans


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Unit 2: Community Organization

"In democratic countries, knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others."

-- De Tocqueville

Once students are familiar with colonias either by viewing The Forgotten Americans video or through a class discussion, brainstorm a list of community problems in colonias. Ask your students if they feel that the problems outlined in the first part of the film can be solved. Ask them how optimistic they are about colonias families making changes to improve conditions in these South Texas communities.

Select one or two video segments either the section about Rosie De Leija (13:43 to 17:08) or the segment about Veronica Cruz’s work with Proyecto Azteca (29:17 to 31:31) or information about EPISO (31:32 to 34:11).

Remember you don’t have to limit the discussion to colonias. Consider expanding the discussion to talk about Appalachian communities, Native American reservations or poor communities in your area. Check your local newspaper for a story about a community group who has organized and made a difference in your community.

Use the glossary of terms and the discussion questions to help students understand grassroots organizing and some of the ways it has been done. Ask your students if they feel optimistic that these strategies can really make a difference. Ask what strategies your students think would work.

Once you feel comfortable that your students have a good understanding of grassroots organizing and community building, consider trying an experiment. Contact a local public official and let your students present their proposals to that official either at a community meeting or in the classroom. Have the official comment on the presentations.

We encourage you to share your experiences from this discussion, class project, and essays. We also encourage you to give us feedback on what impact this unit had on your classroom and the experience of your students. Please send us your feedback on how you used this unit and what results you found.

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