Published: Nov. 7, 2022

mentor and her mentees at CU Boulder For three years, an after-school cultural mentoring program in CU Boulder’s School of Education has paired two dozen predominately Latinx fifth graders from University Hill, a diverse bilingual elementary school across the street from the CU Boulder campus, with underrepresented university student mentors. 

Together, mentors and mentees explore family and community histories that are often suppressed in mainstream U.S. curricula, including ties to loved ones across borders. 

“We have been holding a rare space for reflecting on cultural identity, migration and belonging, and what it means to be Latinx or transnational in Boulder,” said Andrea Dyrness, Costa Rican-born associate professor of educational foundations, policy and practice who developed the partnership when her daughter was attending the school. 

Activities are designed by CU Boulder mentors, mostly education and ethnic studies students, to build community and provoke reflection and dialogue around cultural identity. 

“The resulting interactions reveal a wealth of cultural knowledge, skills and abilities that are often not visible to the public or in daily life in U.S. schools,” Dyrness said. 

Deb Palmer, CU professor of equity, bilingualism and biliteracy and Dyrness’ research partner, led professional development with teachers to inspire continuous inquiry into students’ lived experiences and to counter deficit views of Latinx communities. 

The team continues to learn about the knowledge that transnational students bring to schools, and they hope others can learn from linguistically and culturally diverse families. “I think parents should be proud of the cultural wealth that they are providing for their children — bilingualism, biculturalism, economic understandings and transnational understandings,” said Jackquelin Bristol (PhDEdu’25), who helped publish a report on the partnership called “Bilingual in Boulder.” 

Daniel Garzón (PhDEdu’23), who grew up in the U.S. with ties to Colombia, was a mentor and research assistant in the program. 

“I wish I had this opportunity growing up,” he said. “I could have learned to appreciate my home language and culture much sooner.” 

Story condensed and edited. Parts of this story appeared in Anthropology News, “Finding Home in the Borderlands,” by Andrea Dyrness on July 29, 2022, and in Voices magazine by Hannah Fletcher at

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Photo by Hannah Fletcher