KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Project GRAD scholars gain so much from the program. They’re encouraged to find their voices, speak up, learn leadership skills. Two Grad scholars noticed something missing from their history curriculum and they did something about it.

Brandon O’Neill covers a wide range of history in his popular social studies classes at Fulton High School, but two Project Grad students wanted more.

“Anthony DeLeon and Adrian Moto Gutierrez, two of the students I had in African American history last year, both Latino and they had asked me is there a class similar to African American history but from a Latino perspective,” O’Neill recalled, “and I was like, ‘no, there’s not.’ “

He went on to say, “we’ve not been good at teaching U.S. history from multiple perspectives, just not been. We’re getting better in African American history slowly but surely, hopefully, but teaching U.S. history from a Latino perspective is almost non-existent.”

Anthony and Adrian wanted to learn more about their heritage, saying, “just wanting to ask more questions about our culture and our history, realizing as of right now there’s not much being taught about us just in the curriculum.

“After taking African American history, we thought maybe there could be a similar class specifically for Latinos.”

So, O’Neill set out to find out how to add Latinx history to his curriculum, learning he had his work cut out for him. He went before the Knox County Schools Board of Education first.

“School board for the county approved it, and then the state approved it last summer,” O’Neill said.

Brandon O’Neill’s Latinx history class became a reality and is now being taught at Fulton.

“Not just a Mexican-American perspective, but a Cuban-American perspective and a Puerto Rican perspective, so we try to make it kind of comprehensive, recognizing that to be Latino in America is more than being Mexican-American. The Latino experience is broad, it’s all-encompassing and it’s different,” O’Neill said.

Our thanks to teachers like this.

“We’re really glad to have Mr. O’Neill who took the initiative to make the class completely from scratch,” Anthony said.

And our appreciation to the Project Grad students who saw a need for change and did something about it.