Brandon Rodriguez, a high school senior in Connecticut, is getting ready for his fourth-period Black and Latino history class. Rodriguez says he signed up for the course to learn more about his ancestry.
“My parents were born in Ecuador, but I was born here,” Rodriguez said. “But it’s nice to learn a little bit more about your Hispanic side and the impacts or benefits they’ve done in this country.”
Connecticut passed Public Act 19-12 in 2019, which requires all high schools in the state to offer courses on African, Black, Puerto Rican and Latino studies beginning in 2022. Danbury’s Abbott Technical is among 50 public high schools piloting the elective course. The law signed by Gov. Ned Lamont requires all high schools to offer a course that covers African American studies in the first semester and Latino history in the second. But it does not require that every student take it.
The curriculum written by the State Education Resource Center, or SERC, was completed over the summer. It’s the same curriculum that Adrian Solis is teaching to Rodriguez’s senior class.
Inside his classroom, the discussion begins with a prompt.
“I’m going to put a phrase up on the board. Your job is to come up with one word,” said Solis as he wrote “Slavery in the U.S.” on the board. As offered by the curriculum, the course begins with an introduction to African origins and contributions of ancient African empires and the African diaspora. It moves through topics of slavery and freedom to Black liberation movements in the U.S.
Solis says that growing up as a Latino in a suburban town, he didn’t learn about his own history until college.
“I’m so glad I’m able to at least play a little role in it to help these kids learn about themselves a little bit,” said Solis, who teaches social studies.