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Centro Victoria vision is to promote reading, culture in high schools

Feb. 5, 2011 at midnight
Updated Feb. 4, 2011 at 8:05 p.m.


By Ken Cooke

I have read a little about Centro Victoria at the University of Houston-Victoria. Can you tell me more about its main focus?

Centro Victoria is an initiative by the UHV School of Arts and Sciences to stay on top of the national demographic swing and to spur an interest in reading among young, Mexican-American students.

Centro Victoria, housed in the UHV University Center, is the first of its kind - a literary arts center that promotes the rich Mexican-American culture.

Part of its efforts are focused on a high-school lesson plan, called "Made in Texas," which, for six weeks, lets high school English classes focus on what has been an under-represented part of their studies, according to Dagoberto Gilb, Centro Victoria's executive director. It is hoped this will turn on additional young people to reading and writing, as their culture will be reflected more in their studies.

In 2005, Gilb edited a literary anthology called "Hecho en Tejas," featuring his picks of the best Mexican-American authors, poets and musicians. The "Made in Texas" lesson plan is being adapted from that book, and it features lesson plans that are compatible with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills exam and the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills exam.

Gilb stressed that the lesson plan is not geared solely for Mexican-American students.

"It's geared for a mutual understanding of who we all are," Gilb said. "I don't think many people realize there are so many quality writers of Mexican-American descent. We have a long history of literature and art in Texas."

Gilb, an award-winning author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, and Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences, have assembled a staff of nationally recognized writers, to work at Centro Victoria and teach writing courses at UHV. Those include former Dallas Morning News editorial board member Macarena Hernández, a South Texas native and the Centro Victoria managing director.

Gilb and others are now giving presentations to school districts about its lesson plan, and are drawing positive reviews from administrators and teachers in districts with a large Mexican-American population. One teacher reported that her students were voluntarily going to the library to look up the works of Tomás Rivera, Sandra Cisneros and Américo Paredes.

For more information about this unique program, visit centrovictoria.net, e-mail centrovictoria@uhv.edu or call 361-570-4101.

Ken Esten Cooke is the communications specialist at the University of Houston-Victoria. If you have a question about UHV, contact him at 361-570-4296 or by e-mail at cookek@uhv.edu.

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