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On Fronteras: More Minorities Graduating; Gangs Threaten Cross-Border Business; The Conjunto Kid

Dianna Douglas

  — Texas’ Hispanic and black students are rocking the national charts when it comes to high school graduation rates. Fronteras takes a look at the reasons and whether students are also better prepared for college and career.

— In Dallas minority students excel on Advanced Placement tests for colleges.  We take a look at why that’s happening.

—Sen. Ted Cruz, the first official presidential candidate for the 2016 elections, may speak at Texas A&M International’s graduation ceremony in Laredo.  Could he be trying to make inroads with Hispanic voters?

— Farm workers in Baja California have ended their strike, but they aren’t satisfied with their pay hike.

— Travelling through Mexico can be dangerous for Central Americans who come to the U.S. to buy old cars they resell at home.  They say drug dealers and police often demand payment for safe passage.

--- An 8-year-old accordion player makes his debut at a conjunto music contest.

Texas Tops High School Graduation Rates For Hispanic, Black Students

There’s some recent good news on the high school graduation front. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that 81 percent of U.S. students are graduating from high school. There’s certainly room for improvement but that’s the highest rate ever, and minority students in particular are making big strides.

The education survey looked at the 2012-2013 school year and ranked Texas first for the rate of Hispanic students completing high school, with 85 percent graduating. Texas ranked first again for graduating black students, with 84 percent making it the cut. MaricelaOliva is an associate professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Texas, San Antonio. She joined TPR’s Shelley Kofler in the studio to talk about the results.

TPR's Shelley Kofler interviews Professor Oliva.

In Dallas, More Than Just A Feel Good Minority Story

Minority student achievement is, perhaps, best seen in Dallas, where black and Latino high school students are passing the Advanced Placement exams at the highest rate in the country. The story of how Dallas became the national leader in getting underrepresented minorities to excel on college placement tests is a bright spot for the Dallas school district. KERA’s Dianna Douglas sat through an AP Chemistry class to see what was working, and how Dallas is setting an example for school districts across the country.


Cruz Set To Reach Out To Latinos At A&M International’s Grad Event?

News from the U.S. Mexico border region this week includes something different — the possibility that presidential candidate Ted Cruz might be looking for a way to connect with the Hispanic community by speaking at the Texas A&M International University commencement ceremony in Laredo. The campus newspaper reported that the Republican’s campaign team offered to have him speak at the graduation ceremony. The border city of Laredo is about 95 percent Latino. 

Pay Hike For Baja California Workers Sees A Return To Farming

Most farm workers protesting low wages have returned to work in Baja California, after growers in the region offered them a 15 percent wage increase. Although some workers are still not satisfied with their pay, growers say they can’t afford more. Mexico’s Agricultural Commissioner said he was pushing the growers for better working conditions and to provide social responsibility benefits for farming communities. The Baja strike coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Delano grape workers strike, led by Cesar Chavez. Matt Bolen of KPBS spoke to Paul Chavez, as people in San Diego remembered his famous grandfather.


Scary Tales Make It More Than The Usual Car Trouble

Old cars that have little resale value in California, Arizona and Texas, and often end up in Mexico. But that’s not the only market for these outdated vehicles. Many are towed all the way to Guatemala, where they’re fixed up and sold throughout Central America. The process represents a small but sustainable industry for one particularly impoverished part of Guatemala on the country’s northern border with Mexico. But the risks travelers face on the week-long trip are severe. Fronteras Desk reporter Lorne Matalon of Marfa Public Radio has the story.


The Conjunto Kid

Conjunto music , like the people of South Texas , is a blend of cultures.  Texas Public Radio’s Jack Morgan has the story of how one young San Antonio accordionist is part of the effort to keep conjunto alive.

Story about 8-year old conjunto player airing on Texas Public Radio.

[Note: Joey Palacios is this week’s guest host for Fronteras.  Shelley Kofler and Alexis Yancey produced this broadcast. Kadambari M. Wade assisted with web content. Charanga Cakewalk composed the program’s theme music.]

Shelley Kofler is Texas Public Radio’s news director. She joined the San Antonio station in December 2014 and leads a growing staff that produces two weekly programs; a daily talk show, news features, reports and online content. Prior to TPR, Shelley served as the managing editor and news director at KERA in Dallas-Fort Worth, and the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.