HYATTSVILLE, Md. (WUSA9) -- Prince George's County has plans to open two high school academies that are dedicated to helping recent immigrant students learn English.
The Prince George's County NAACP objects to the new program and is meeting with the Prince George's County Executive, pushing him to drop the plan for the high schools.
The NAACP calls the academies "separate and unequal," but Latino activists from Casa de Maryland support the program for students who are still learning English.
Latino activists say the classes are a chance for struggling youngsters to fulfill their dreams.
Maria Narvaez knows both broken dreams and hope for the future.
"When I first came to school, actually I did not speak any English at all," said Narvaez.
Narvaez struggled in school and eventually dropped out, but she wants more for her 9-year-old daughter Jocelyn, who dreams of becoming a nurse or a veterinarian.
"I feel proud. I got a 9-year-old daughter and she wants to go somewhere bigger than I am," said Narvaez.
Nearly half the students trying to learn English in Prince George's County Schools drop out before graduating, so the county is opening two high schools designed specifically for recent immigrants.
The NAACP is furious.
"It goes back to separate but equal. And we fought that battle 50 years ago," said NAACP President Bob Ross, who fears school leaders will spend millions on Latino children and take the money from African American students who also need help.
"This is a very awkward position because black and brown, people try to say we have the same struggles," said Ross. "But I sort of take it a little differently. We don't have the same struggles because we came here for 400 years of slavery and moved forward. People who are arriving now are coming of their own free accord."
Advocates and the schools' CEO insist the planned CASA International Schools at Largo High, and another planned for Langley Park, are not about taking resources from one group and giving them to another.
They argue that the county has more than a dozen programs to help low income African American students.
"Ultimately it benefits the community to have kids not drop out, stay in school and graduate," said Robert Asprilla of Casa de Maryland.
The International Schools are slated to open in August. They're starting with a $3 million grant from the Carnegie Foundation, but it will take millions of dollars more in county money to run them.
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