07/15/2013 09:06 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Some Want to Send Latino Kids 'Away.' Kelli Porthan Wants to Send Her Latino Students To College.

Gracias a Dios por Kelli Porthan.

For months now, Congress has been debating an immigration bill. Without success, it seems --- every day the passage of a sane bill becoming law seems less likely. People like me watch from afar and despair. Kelli Porthan does something every day to improve the lives of immigrants.

She'd like some help.

In 2007, when Kelli was a third grade bilingual teacher for Latino students in St. Paul, Minnesota, she learned that the high school graduation rate for Latinos was less than 50% --- and less than 17% of Latino college students finished four years of college with a degree. Another teacher might have shrugged: hey, what can you do? Kelli started Walter's Wish.

Walter's Wish --- Walter is Kelli's aging Chihuahua --- is a weekend mentoring program for Latino students in the fifth, sixth and seventh grades. For two-and-a-half hours, college-educated mentors and lecturers expose these kids to science, technology, engineering and math --- and reinforce the mantra of personal possibility. It's a family affair: Parents must sign a contract.

Does this program work? So well that a local community service group (CLUES, or Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio) has acquired Walter's Wish for its "Learning Together" initiative. And a recent article is nothing but praise. And watch this:

I write this because Walter's Wish seems vastly more valuable than a border fence, and yet it's never going to get the kind of financial support that's powering that fence. It's easy to shrug and say, yeah, well that's how the world works. Or we might help some Latino kids get excited about college --- and get there.

You can give to Walter's Wish at the website (scroll down to the DONATE button) or send a check to Walter's Wish Fund, 120 Arundel Street, St. Paul, MN 55102.

Gracias a Dios por Kelli Porthan. And thank you.

[Disclosure: Decades ago, after the death of her parents, my wife became an unofficial daughter to Kelli's mother and stepfather, Mary Kay and George Spalding. Later, they "adopted" the child and me. I danced at Kelli's wedding. I know, and do not much like, her dog.]

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