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Senator René Garcia Meets with Students for the Haitian-Creole Expansion Initiative

Youth participation in government is vital, for it provides students with the opportunity to voice their concerns and perspectives on issues and enables them to become more involved and aware of the societal problems that need to be addressed and acted upon. At John A Ferguson Senior High School, students in Ms. Burger’s third period class had the opportunity to speak to Miami-Dade County Commissioner and former state senator, René Garcia, about a potential student-led initiative in conjunction with the organization, Student Power, aimed at providing more equity to Haitian Americans within Miami-Dade County. Through Zoom, students met with Senator Garcia, on Monday morning, April 19th, to discuss their proposal and seek his advice on the further steps that should be taken to propel it forward.   

Therefore, the students began their presentation by elaborating upon the existing inequity towards the Haitian community, emphasizing how government documents are mainly printed in English and Spanish, while there are over 100,000 Creole-speaking individuals who reside within Miami-Dade County. Consequently, it is imperative to address this problem since this language barrier can ultimately lead to lower levels of civic participation among Haitian Americans and overall forms a part of a larger social justice issue that challenges the ability of Haitian individuals to access information and resources.

The students then proposed to ensure that all housing documents are also printed in Creole and to expand Creole news programming, which could potentially be accomplished by appropriating more funding towards Miami-Dade TV, a channel intended to inform Miami-Dade residents about its government services and programs. Senator Garcia exemplified how one of the main hurdles in accomplishing this proposal is essentially the county’s budget, especially with translating services, which may be costly. This signifies that more information about the county’s budget would be needed in order to continue to pursue this proposal. As a result, he expressed how he would reach back out to Ms. Burger with contacts of people who could assist them with the county budget along with other leaders from the Haitian American community who also have similar objectives. 

After Senator Garcia explained the certain hurdles that are present surrounding the budget, students had the opportunity to ask him several questions about his background and his work as a politician. He shared how he always strives to be true to his word and transparent in all of his actions and is passionate about mental health reform and expanding health care services. This meeting truly provided students with the opportunity to learn more about the role that local government politicians play in proposing policy and legislation and its overall complexity in analyzing the obstacles and opposing arguments that could be presented against it.  


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