Advocate for education
Trinity senior’s hard work and research has helped English-learners, new mothers, and more
Sunday, August 23, 2020
Diana Long stands by entrance to Trinity

Calculus, biology, history: a lot of things you have to learn in high school are hard enough on their own. 

Diana Long ’21 also remembers having to learn the English language throughout her early years of schooling.

“I came from a low-income school, where they struggled financially to provide the necessary resources for their students, especially English-language learners.” Long says. “That influenced my passion to make change in the community.”

Long, a sociology major from San Antonio, Texas, has spent her 2020 summer making that change. Funded through a summer research experience with the McNair Scholars program, she’s conducting research on best funding practices for English-language learners. Under the guidance of Trinity education professor Oscar Jiménez-Castellanos, the project is a collaboration with Oregon Department of Education.

“It’s really fun, and I’ve been learning a lot,” Long says. “I feel like I’m making a tangible impact, and I love seeing how we can merge this research into practice.”

Long and Jiménez-Castellanos have conducted an extensive literature review to determine the best approaches to direct English-language learning funding for school districts that did not meet various federal progress indicators.

“We’re basically asking: what are the best ways for schools to prioritize their funding for working with English-language learners?” Long says.

The result of their work is a 60-page report that details six high-leverage funding practices that improved English-language learner outcomes:

  1. Parental engagement
  2. Training a culture of bilingualism in schools
  3. Professional development
  4. Attracting and retaining high-quality teachers
  5. Reducing class size
  6. Emphasis on student assessment

“Coming from Trinity, we really value that individualized attention, so that shouldn’t be any different for K-12 students,” Long remarks.

And Long is quick to note that her work with Jiménez-Castellanos is a perfect example of that mentor-student partnership that Trinity prides itself on.

“I never imagined that when I came to Trinity, I’d be working one-on-one with the head of our education department,” Long says. “It’s a tremendous opportunity that I’m so grateful to have. Dr. Jiménez-Castellanos is an expert in school finance, and he’s well-known across the country, and especially in the California system. And I’ve had access to his professional and academic mentorship this summer.”

At Trinity, Long has taken on similar experiential opportunities, all with the goal of strengthening her community. She’s interned with the Healthy Texas Mothers Coalition, where she provided resources to new mothers in the community, with the goal of helping lowering the infant mortality rate. She also interned with the Martinez Street Women's Center, where she learned a lot about the community and the struggles women face when navigating the health care system. “It inspired me to learn more about health disparities and their fundamental causes,” says Long, who received a grant to fund this internship experience from Trinity’s MAS (Mexico, Americas, and Spain) program.

And even before life as a Trinity student, she was a participant in the Upward Bound program, a college readiness initiative for underrepresented high school students. The program led her to an internship in a Trinity biology laboratory, and eventually helped introduce her to life at Trinity itself.

Flash forward to life as a senior: Long is now planning on applying to graduate school, where she hopes to study educational leadership and policy. “Dr. Jiménez-Castellanos has been guiding me through the application process too, telling me which schools are the best,” Long says.

Long says she owes much of her career trajectory to the mentors who’ve helped her along the way. So, Long eventually wants to become a mentor herself.

“The end goal for me is being a professor, but I want to do policy work before I get there, maybe starting by getting an internship at the state capital,” Long says. “I just want to find ways to make an influence at the state or national level.”

As she continues her education career, Long says the biggest skill she’s taken from Trinity has been relationship building.

“Trinity is a small, liberal arts school, so we get to interact with a lot of different people. With the ties I’ve developed with my professors here, I’m learning how to navigate a professional environment in ways I couldn’t have done at a larger institution,” Long says. “Here, you make long-lasting connections with professors and peers. And they’re meaningful connections.”

Jeremiah Gerlach is the brand journalist for Trinity University Strategic Communications and Marketing.

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