INDIANTOWN, Fla. — Indiantown is home to farms, ranches and citrus groves, but it’s also home to farmworkers. Many of the workers come from countries like Guatemala, Mexico and Haiti.
There also is a special school that caters to their children in Indiantown called Hope Rural School.
It was founded in 1980 by Father Frank and Sister Carol, who the school director said wanted to create a Catholic education for children of farmworkers.
“People would say that they were really lost,” said Erin Dilla, referencing the start of the school.
Hope Rural School aimed to address cultural and language-sensitive issues. It is something the school said the public school system was not set up for at the time.
“It provided stability for their homes and now 42 years later, we are still existing and we are serving immigrant children,” said Sister Elizabeth Dunn, the director of Hope Rural School. “We have 88% Guatemalan and Mexican children, about 10% Haitian children.”
“It is still a need in the community,” said Dilla, who has been a teacher at the school for more than 25 years. “The teachers here, you have to care more, because I feel like the kids need us more.”
The mission goes beyond the children and caters to families as well through parenting and English classes and food and clothing distribution events.
“If you think dad is speaking Spanish, mom speaking Q’anjob’al, and the kids are trying to learn English … maybe there is not as much communicating at home,” Dilla said.
Aida, a fifth-grade student, said her family is Guatemalan. She’s been a student at Hope Rural since she was 3-years-old.
“I’ve been going here eight years,” she said. “All the teachers help and they help me learn to write everything that I need to learn now, and I really appreciate them. … They help my family. They help my dad to learn English.”
“We learn together,” Dunn said. “The parents and the children. So, I think that’s the important piece of this. It’s a community of learning.”
She said the history speaks for itself.
“[The school was] founded to serve the children in this community of Indiantown,” Dunn said. “We have not deviated from our mission.”
She went on to say the future mission is clear as well.
“The parents of the children themselves have not had the opportunity for the same kind of education [they deserve],” Dunn said. “I think it’s very important their children deserve to have an education that is like everything else.”
“Hope is knowing that the future can be better,” Dilla said.