Eye on KELOLAND: Latinos Unidos


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Thanks to recent numbers, we have a better idea of the Sioux Falls School District’s diversity.

KELOLAND News introduced you to Roosevelt High School senior Kiara Casillas Carrillo last month during a round table discussion for National Hispanic American Heritage Month. She, along with fellow Roosevelt senior Janet Constantino, started a student group called Latinos Unidos last year. The group’s name translates to “Latinos united.”

“We try and help the students that are Latin American that come from their countries to make them feel more comfortable with our school and the environment,” Casillas Carrillo said.

“We just talk to them about things that are going on with school, school activities,” Constantino said.

“We want them to feel comfortable, make them feel safe,” Casillas Carrillo said.

Courtney Sawle is a school home liaison with the Sioux Falls School District.

“They noticed that there’s these new students coming, brand new from other countries with zero English, zero understanding of what is school in South Dakota like, and they’re like, ‘We need to help them,'” Sawle said. “We’ve been through this, well some of them have been through this, and they’re like, we want to mentor them and give them a place where they can come and feel safe and ask questions in Spanish.”

Roosevelt junior Oscar Diaz is a part of the group.

“I think it’s like, more or less, a family,” Diaz said in Spanish.

He was born in Puerto Rico, but came here because of Hurricane Maria. Constantino’s parents are from Mexico, but she was born in Sioux Falls. Casillas Carrillo has one parent from Mexico and one from Guatemala; she was born in Iowa. This diversity is reflected in Latinos Unidos.

“They all speak Spanish but the diversity just within is extreme,” Sawle said. “We have Colombia, from Puerto Rico, Guatemala and so there’s so much diversity just within our group, that it’s really good to come together and kind of talk about those differences and similarities and how we can all help each other.”

Latinos Unidos has grown, too.

“Started with 15, now we grew to like 50, 60 kids,” Casillas Carrillo said.

“The word spread around and a lot of other kids thought it was cool so they just came here, and just participated with us,” Constantino said.

Sioux Falls School District Superintendent Brian Maher says there is a connection between diversity and youth in the district.

“Our middle schools are more diverse than our high schools, and our elementary schools are more diverse than our middle schools,” Maher said on October 28. “So this isn’t just a bubble. This is our new reality as a city, our new reality as a school district. We are becoming more and more diverse.”

For students at Roosevelt, having a group like Latinos Unidos means self-worth, Casillas Carrillo says.

“I feel it makes them be proud of who they are,” Casillas Carrillo said.

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