Filipino community helps bring back Tagalog class, connects students to cultural background

After Bayanihan co-President Jamar Dudley (12) got an email from former Filipino teacher Mai Sciarratta about her retirement in January, he felt anxious. Almost immediately, Dudley emailed her back and discovered that in addition to her retirement, the Filipino class as a whole was also being canceled second semester due to her absence. He became dismayed at the loss of one of the most influential classes he ever took, and immediately took action to bring it back.

“This class meant so much to me, since it helped me find out who I was as a person,” Dudley said. “When I came in as a freshman, I thought I knew a lot about Filipino culture already since I was half Filipino. But through the class, I learned so much more about not only the language and the culture but also who I am.”

After receiving the email, Dudley got in touch with the other Bayanihan co-President Rachele Dusa (12), and they met with Dr. Juanita Nacu, the founder of the Filipino American Parent-Student Group of PUSD, to discuss ways to bring back Filipino. This involved things like petitioning. These meetings were open not only to the students but also to the Rancho Peñasquitos Filipino community as a whole. They were held at several parents’ houses during February and March.

“We had outside sources, from local Filipino communities and churches, and they really helped to gather people to support the cause,” Dusa said.

At the beginning of March, the group contacted district officials to begin the process of bringing the class back. They had several face-to-face meetings with the PUSD Board of Education and Superintendent Marian Kim-Phelps after receiving enough student signatures on their petitions to bring back the class. When mid-March arrived and course request forms were released, they were overjoyed.

“Jamar and I talked about it during the club meetings, and we helped everyone know what was going on,” Dusa said.

“We couldn’t have done it without the help of everyone else.”

Filipino had been added back into the list of available classes.

But, their efforts did not stop there. After finally securing Filipino as a class on campus, they had to make sure that it would be there to stay. Dudley was concerned that some of the middle schoolers wouldn’t sign up since they weren’t informed of the class’s status.

“We had another meeting for students and parents in the community to discuss a strategy for keeping the class,” Dudley said.

For Dusa, her efforts in keeping the class on campus will extend even after her graduation. She will remain close with Bayanihan for the years to come.

“I do plan to stay in contact with the members of Bayanihan until the current freshmen graduate, and I will check up with them often,” Dusa said.

For Dudley, the Filipino community’s effort kept what he considered to be an important cultural hub on campus. He hopes that his initiative and the community’s efforts will leave a lasting legacy of Filipino culture.

“A saying Ms. Sciarratta used to say was  ‘No history, no self,’ and since there are a lot of students here who are Filipino or are interested in learning about the language, I was very concerned that taking it [the class] away would affect their self-discovery,” Dudley said.