Today, Governor Roy Cooper spoke at the Sylvia Mendez Newcomers School ribbon cutting ceremony in High Point. The Governor was joined by Sylvia Mendez Newcomers School Principal Christian Walter and Guilford County Schools Superintendent Dr. Whitney Oakley for a tour of the school.
“Schools like the new Sylvia Mendez Newcomers are both the right thing and the smart thing to do,” said Governor Cooper. “It’s the right thing because all children deserve a good education and it’s the smart thing because our international population in North Carolina makes an annual positive impact on our economy of more than $3.5 billion and education will help that grow."
“It is vitally important that our students can see themselves in the role models we hold up for them, and Sylvia Mendez is certainly a leader our students can look up to,” Guilford County Schools Superintendent Dr. Whitney Oakley said.
“As a school administrator, I feel the urgent need to be a dream-builder for my students,” Sylvia Mendez Newcomers School Principal Christian Walter said. “Our students will become aware of all the opportunities that are out there... and they will learn what it takes to make dreams come true in this land of opportunities.”
“Representation matters,” Guilford County Board of Education Chair Deena Hayes said. “We are taking the steps to ensure that students see role models who look like them, in their classroom teachers, in their principals, in the district administration, and now, on our school buildings.”
The Sylvia Mendez Newcomers School will become the first in North Carolina to be named after a Latino person, specifically in honor of civil rights activist Sylvia Mendez. The Sylvia Mendez Newcomers School will serve immigrant and refugee children in High Point. It will operate on a 10-month schedule, with extended learning sessions scheduled throughout the year as a counterpart to the Doris Henderson Newcomer’s School in Greensboro.
Governor Cooper has proclaimed September 15 – October 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month to honor and celebrate the history, culture and achievements of the Hispanic, Latino, Latinx and Latine communities across North Carolina.
In 2017, Governor Cooper signed Executive Order No. 23, establishing the Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic/Latino Affairs to advise the Governor on issues related to the Hispanic, Latino, Latinx and Latine population and how North Carolina can better support these communities.
In December 2019, the Governor created the DRIVE Task Force to recruit more teachers of color, improve equity and increase diversity among the educator workforce. In January 2021, the DRIVE Task Force released its report with recommendations to increase teacher diversity, which have been reflected in the Governor’s proposed budgets, including increasing teacher compensation, expanding the NC Teaching Fellows program and providing support for educators of color to complete their National Board Teaching Certification.
In June 2023, based on a recommendation of the DRIVE Task Force, Governor Cooper allocated $3 million in GEER funding to reimburse teaching licensing exam fees, an identified barrier for educators of color to enter the profession.
Reestablished under Executive Order No. 268, the Andrea Harris Equity Task Force has been reconstituted to further the economic development of disadvantaged communities, improve health and wellness outcomes in underserved communities and advance equitable and inclusive practices within state agencies.