“I consider us a full-service school. I dress, feed and provide social-emotional support,” said Ms. Arce-Gonzalez, as she showed off cabinets and shelves stocked with new crisp school uniform tops and bottoms, secondhand clothes and food items such as canned vegetables, cereal and pasta, donated by the National Council of Jewish Women and other organizations.
Her courtship worked. When the district redrew its boundaries and several students were threatened with having to go to another school, some of the immigrant parents fought to stay at South Grade.
Juana Enrique is paying higher rent after relocating to an apartment with an address that guarantees her daughter, Annie Reyes, can stay at South Grade. “My daughter loves the school, and I appreciate the teachers. It is worth the sacrifice,” said Ms. Enrique, who is from El Salvador.
Many Lake Worth residents have welcomed the diversity brought by the city’s now numerous immigrants, but some also worry that they could be dragging down educational standards for other students.
“You have to be experiencing real hardship to carry your toddler through the desert to seek a better life,” said Dan Brown, a mail carrier, who said the new immigrants are “perfectly fine neighbors,” but who also said he was considering moving to a place with less-impacted schools when his 2-year-old son is ready for kindergarten.
Some other residents wondered whether they were subsidizing the newly arriving families.
“They’re poor and can’t make it here,” said Jonathan Harris, a real-estate investor who favors stronger controls on immigration. “I am pretty confident that we have enough people already here illegally to do all the jobs that Americans don’t want to get their hands dirty doing,” he said.
But Kim Lingle, a paralegal who has lived for years in Lake Worth, said the new families have been an asset. “The immigrants are loving, caring, hard-working families,” she said. “They contribute to the fabric of our kitschy little campy town.”