MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - It’s Hispanic Heritage Month and WMC Action News 5 is partnering with La Prensa Latina to bring you special coverage for the next four weeks.
According to the U.S. Census Hispanics make up more than 7% of the Memphis population.
In this first segment we introduce you to a leader within Shelby County Schools who’s paving the way for many Hispanics like herself.
“My name is Gabriela Toro, I’m the principal of Newcomer International Center for Shelby County Schools.”
Shelby County Schools is the largest district in the state of Tennessee, and Toro makes up one small portion of its staff.
“That is correct I am the only Hispanic principal within the district,” said Toro.
Toro has been with the district 17 years, the last four years she’s helped build Newcomer International Center.
The center caters to 9th and 10th graders who stay there for two years before transferring to a regular school.
The past two years Toro says they reached capacity with 91 students.
“Our school is 100% ESL, ELL students, our students come from no education background to very little educational background. Currently in our population 100% of our students are Hispanic,” said Toro.
Born and raised in Venezuela until the age of 11, Toro says she can relate to her students because she was also an ESL student at SCS.
“When I first started school in Memphis I was in the six grade. There were only two of us in my whole six grade class that were Hispanic. ESL back then, or English as a second language was really not thought of or it was something new,” said Toro.
Today, 15% of SCS students are Hispanic.
Toro says her background led her to the position she’s in, and she’s proud to help students who like her now call Memphis home.
“To be able to serve a population that is forever growing here in Memphis and I’m a part of that’s an honor for me, because they are seeing not someone that is just by name, but is actually background, Hispanic, immigrant to be here and open up a school where they can come and learn,” said Toro.