“The Latino immigrant story resonates for me,” says Roscoe Caron, who grew up among French Canadian immigrants in Manchester, New Hampshire. “My grandparents were textile mill workers.” Caron went to a Catholic school through eighth grade; half the day was taught in French and half in English. He started college at Superior State University in Wisconsin, then spent a year at Ohio State before moving to Eugene in 1972. “When I got here, I thought, ‘OK, I’m home,’” he recalls.
A year later he joined the Hoedads Reforestation Cooperative. “We worked in every state west of the Rockies, except Alaska,” he says. “We grew to over 300 workers in the late ’70s. I became Hoedads president in ’82-’83, right when the Reagan recession happened.” Caron returned to college at the UO to become a teacher and graduated in 1986. He taught middle school in Junction City, then in Eugene’s Jefferson, Kennedy and Kelly middle schools until he retired in 2010. In 1996, he and his tequila-drinking and garage-band buddy Jim Garcia, then faculty advisor to MEChA (the Latino student union) at the UO, launched Ganas, an after-school program that brings MEChA members to middle school twice a week to help Latino students with homework and to have some fun. “Ganas has been going for 22 years,” he notes. “It’s been the incubator for a lot of college students going into teaching.”
More recently, Caron has invested his time and energy in CAPE (Community Alliance for Public Education), a local advocacy group that challenges the prevailing corporate model of standardized teaching and testing. “Oregon is now in its second year of standardized testing for kindergartners,” he says. “We’re promoting opt-out.” Learn about CAPE meetings and events on the CAPE Facebook page.