Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Introducing New Blogger Katherine Leal Unmuth

I am an education reporter by profession, but my passion for Latino education issues is fueled by my family history.

In the first half of the twentieth century, Mexican-American children in Texas faced many challenges when it came to obtaining a quality education. My grandmother Dahlia was born in an era when Mexican-Americans like herself were segregated from whites in many settings and often attended substandard schools. At age 14, she dropped out of the public San Antonio high school she attended, and soon after that she married my grandfather Alonzo, who never completed elementary school.

Her educational narrative was not unusual for Latinos during this era. Those significant challenges persisted when my mother was a child in the 1950s. She was lucky enough to receive a scholarship to attend the private Catholic Incarnate Word High School in San Antonio, and she later earned a degree in medical record administration from Incarnate Word College. My mother still marvels at the fact she earned a college degree when few other Mexican-Americans in her generation did so.

The fact that my mother overcame challenges to obtain a higher education also has influenced my sister Natalie, a third-grade teacher. My mother likes to say that I report the war, while my sister fights on the front lines!

Because my mother’s family was able to overcome poverty to receive an education, I have hope that today’s generation of young Hispanic children can do the same. I believe that education is the greatest civil rights issue of our generation.

I worked for six years as an education reporter at The Dallas Morning News and two years covering higher education at The Wichita Eagle. I have written about bilingual and English language learner education. In Kansas and Texas, I wrote about controversies over state laws granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. I profiled a young man who moved to the United States from El Salvador as a child and went on to attend Harvard University.

I am dedicated to chronicling the Hispanic-American experience.