Lubbock High students make serape stoles for Raiders Rojos graduates at Texas Tech

Published: Apr. 28, 2023 at 10:01 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - In just a few weeks, Hispanic graduates at Texas Tech University will honor their heritage by donning their serape stoles to cross the stage, thanks to students at Lubbock High School.

Maria Teresa Leos-Duemer’s class has made the graduation stoles in a service learning project for the last 10 years.

The stoles go to the Raiders Rojos Alumni Network, which works to promote retention and graduation of Hispanic students through mentorships and scholarships.

Years ago, when Leos-Duemer was tasked with making the stoles, she turned it into a lesson plan for her Counseling and Mental Health course. For a few weeks at the end of the year, her classroom becomes a maquiladora, she says based on factories in Mexico.

“I took my students on a virtual tour to Mexico and we looked at the working conditions, and we talked about children working in these, and also looked at a lady who, we looked at her video diary and how stressed she was working as a single mother with three children at the maquiladora,” Leos-Duemer said. “So, the students got to feel a little bit of that. And right now they’re feeling the pressure because they’re having to work and pretend they’re at a maquiladora.”

In the maquiladora, there are student cortadors - who cut, planchadors - who iron, alfiladors - who pin, cosadors - who sew, voltiadors - who turn the stoles, and empacadors - who pack them. The students also serve as production and quality managers, working hard for about one hour a day for a few weeks to make 500 to 700 serape stoles.

Leos-Duemer says she loves the project because it is integrated learning, combining several subjects, Spanish language learning and real-world experience.

“My students learn about NAFTA. We look at the Mexican labor laws and compare them to United States labor laws. And so, the students get a little bit of economics, a little bit of government, and then also in the process, they get some sewing skills,” she said.

For Junior Zarian Tarango, who wants to be a psychiatrist, the project helps him understand a different perspective.

“It’s sad, but it’s reality so it’s kind of cool to see how it works, what these people are going through on a daily basis. It’s like you can see through their eyes just for a second,” Tarango said.

Janie Landin Ramirez, one of the Raiders Rojos founders, says the organization has presented the stoles to Hispanic graduates for more than 20 years.

“I know that the graduates love them, but I think the ones that love it the most are their families, the parents, the grandparents. Because they have even a stronger connection to their heritage and when they see their child having one on, it just means so much more to them that they’re proud of their heritage,” Ramirez said.

Tarango wants to go to college at Texas Tech and could one day wear a serape stole of his own.

“It’s gonna be like a memory trip. I’m gonna be like I remember when I used to do this, it used to be so much fun,” Tarango said.

Raiders Rojos will host its graduation convocation event May 11 at 6:30 p. m. at the McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center.