Developing Education Initiatives for City’s Young Mexican Immigrants

Advisers with a group called Mexican-American Youth Advising Students at a meeting in Manhattan in 2011. The group tries to help Mexican students stay in school. Brian Harkin for The New York Times Advisers with a group called Mexican-American Youth Advising Students at a meeting in Manhattan in 2011. The group tries to help Mexican students stay in school.

The numbers alone were stark and worrisome: About 41 percent of all Mexican immigrants 16 to 19 years old in New York City have dropped out of school, according to census statistics — more than double the rate of any other major immigrant group and more than four times the city’s overall rate.

In addition, only about 6 percent of Mexican immigrants 19 to 23 years old who do not have a college degree are enrolled in college — a small fraction of the rates among other major immigrant groups and the native-born population.

These statistics highlighted some immigrants’ advocates’ long-held worries regarding the city’s fastest growing immigrant population. The figures’ publication in an article in The New York Times in November 2011 provoked a groundswell of responses both in and beyond the Mexican diaspora.

Officials at Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, based in New York City, were among those moved by the article to act.

“It just struck a chord,” Gary Hattem, president of the foundation, explained in a recent interview. “It resonated with me very strongly as a New Yorker.”

Last October, the foundation convened a meeting of several dozen representatives of community organizations that work with the Mexican immigrant population in New York. In a conference room at the bank’s headquarters — with panoramic views of downtown New York, the harbor and beyond — community organizers, academics and others brainstormed about the most dire needs, educational and otherwise, in the Mexican diaspora.

With notes from that meeting, foundation officials created an initiative designed to improve the educational and economic achievement of the Mexican population in New York City, with an emphasis on children and their families.

The foundation’s plan imagines networks of nonprofit organizations that help to establish and promote educational programs in neighborhoods with large populations of residents of Mexican descent. The plan also seeks to promote civic engagement in the Mexican diaspora.

“The city’s Mexican immigrant community has little civic representation; there are no public officials who directly and vocally advance solutions to their needs,” the foundation wrote in a description of the project. “As such, this initiative will further support nonprofits and communities to assume that role and responsibility.”

In January, the foundation issued a request for proposals, seeking applications for three-month “planning grants” of $5,000 to $10,000. The foundation plans to award 8 to 10 of the grants. Of those projects, the foundation will choose three to five for “implementation grants” of $75,000 to $150,000 a year, renewable up to two times.

“The premise of this effort is really about grounding this work in neighborhoods with high concentrations of Mexicans and bringing to bear the strengths of this community,” Mr. Hattem, the foundation president, said. “We can be a social engineer.” He added, “As a philanthropy, we’re in a position to take a risk and test some ideas.”

By last week’s deadline for the planning grant applications, the foundation had received 17 proposals involving 45 nonprofits as well as City Department of Education schools and the City University of New York for networks in all five boroughs.

“The response exceeded my expectations,” Nicole Rodriguez Leach, a vice president of the foundation, said in an e-mail on Friday. “Very exciting!” The foundation plans to announce the grant recipients this month.

“It is a finite population,” Mr. Hattem said of the Mexicans and Mexican-Americans the initiative is aiming to help. “So we do have an opportunity here to watch a population and hopefully change its trajectory.”

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Viewing World War II Through a Soldier’s Camera Lens

Tony Vaccaro, a photographer known for his photos of World War II, was among those honored on Sunday in Manhattan by the United States Holocaust Museum. James Estrin/The New York Times Tony Vaccaro, a photographer known for his photos of World War II, was among those honored on Sunday in Manhattan by the United States Holocaust Museum.

Tony Vaccaro wanted to become a foreign correspondent, but after being raised in Italy, he returned to the United States less than proficient in English. One of his teachers at Isaac E. Young High School in New Rochelle, N.Y., suggested he become a photographer instead. (He joined a camera club begun by his science teacher, Bertram L. Lewis.) He worked as a caddy to afford a $47.50 American-made Argus C2 camera, intent on taking it with him when he went to war.

“That’s why I became a photographer,” he said. “I had to show this hell to the rest of the world.”

Those images brought him to the attention of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

On Sunday at the New York Hilton, Mr. Vaccaro was one of about 50 World War II veterans honored along with about 300 Holocaust survivors in New York, the third of four stops on the museum’s nationwide tour to mark its 20th anniversary. Museum officials acknowledged that a reunion of that size is unlikely to recur.

More than 3,000 people registered for the event. Most of the former servicemen, like Mr. Vaccaro, are 90 or older. Most of the European refugees who survived the Holocaust are not much younger.

“It’s fair to say this is one of the last times survivors and World War II veterans will gather in such large numbers,” said Sara J. Bloomfield, the museum’s director. “Their task of testimony will soon be entrusted to the rest of us.”

With the number of living eyewitnesses dwindling, the value of photographs and video testimony has been growing. The museum’s archives include an estimated 90,000 photos.

“They humanize the victims,” Ms. Bloomfield said. “They personalize history.”

Mr. Vaccaro was brought to the museum’s attention by Max Lewkowicz, a documentarian whose mother was a Holocaust survivor and whose fiancée, Elissa Schein, is the museum’s director of public programs.

Mr. Vaccaro, who began as an amateur photographer and later worked for Stars and Stripes, Life and Look, stood with his hand on his heart as a military procession presented the colors, including those of his 83rd Infantry Division, which liberated Langenstein, a sub camp of Buchenwald, on April 11, 1945.

His photographs so impressed an army captain that he was recommended for the Signal Corps, but he was told he was too young. “I’m old enough to do this,” he asked, using his index finger as a trigger, “but not old enough to do this,” pressing his finger down as on a shutter.

He would take as many as 8,000 photographs during the war, developing them in pitch darkness at night in borrowed helmets.

“I smelled like a dark room,” he recalled.

Among his most famous photographs, published in books and other collections, are “Kiss of Liberation,” a G.I.’s homage to a young girl in Brittany, and “White Death,” the snow-covered body of a soldier, whom, Mr. Vaccaro discovered, was his best friend, Henry Tannenbaum of Brooklyn. A half-century later, he would return to the spot with Mr. Tannenbaum’s son, Sam.

No scene was too grim not to photograph. “I took everything,” he said. “I felt the world had to see it.”

Among the other guests Sunday was Hanna Deutch, who is 90 and lives in Jackson Heights, Queens. She attended as a survivor and a veteran: she was evacuated from Germany just before the war as a child and enlisted in the British army as a nurse. Wouldn’t she prefer to forget what happened in the Holocaust rather than relive it during events like these? “The world has to know, to meet people who lived through it,” she replied.

When that is no longer possible, the world will have to depend on videos and photographs like those taken by Mr. Vaccaro, who lives in Long Island City, Queens, and is a divorced father of two grown sons. (He still has a darkroom in the apartment.)

Asked which he shot with first during the war, he replied: “First the rifle. Then the camera.”

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