Talking about a yellow bus doesn't usually get people choked up. Unless that yellow bus -- a school bus -- brings up memories about struggling with poverty and lack of education.
Saul Martinez, a Pasco city councilman and former Pasco School Board president, had to stop several times during his speech Thursday night at Kennewick High School.
He was telling the story of a migrant boy working in the fields, watching the bus go by.
It doesn't have to be that hard anymore, Martinez told the crowd in Spanish. Not if students and parents get involved and take advantage of what the school district and other organizations have to offer.
Never miss a local story.
Once a year, the Kennewick School District sends out invitations to Hispanic families with middle and high school students for an event called Jueves Gigante -- Gigantic Thursday. The Spanish-language event includes representatives from colleges, nonprofits and public agencies, and a stage show produced by the students that covers issues from bullying to make-up classes.
The student-led event most of all seeks to draw in a community that is underrepresented in school activities, said its organizer.
"We want to give students leadership opportunities," said Sarah Del Toro, the district's parent involvement coordinator. "Especially students who usually don't get that chance."
The event is held in Spanish mostly for the parents' benefit. The kids chattered in English or effortlessly switched between the two languages.
Parents seemed most likely to use their native tongue.
"This way, the parents feel confident coming into the school and getting more involved," Del Toro said.
It's also a chance for newcomers to get involved.
Eliezer Belisario, a senior at Kennewick High, is a refugee from Cuba. He came to the U.S. in March.
He felt oppressed in Cuba, and not just on an abstract political level, he said.
"Soy Cristiano," is how he summed up the root of his troubles there -- "I'm a Christian."
Belisario is a Seventh-day Adventist, which means he can't attend classes on Saturday, the Sabbath day, he said. In Cuba, kids go to school on Saturday.
Things are much better for him here, and not only because of the five-day schedule.
"I like how people treat me here," he said.
Belisario played the family father in a student performance Thursday. The play was about a migrant family whose travels back to Mexico make the children miss classes.
The point was to let students in the audience know that Kennewick offers catch-up classes on Tuesday afternoons.
Belisario not only acted in it; he also co-wrote it with the other student actors. It was a new experience for the 17-year-old.
"I never participated in anything in school in Cuba," he said.
Maricarmen Garcia, a sophomore at Southridge High School, got involved in Jueves Gigante to help students like Belisario.
Garcia came here from Mexico as a girl and learned English by third grade.
"I know their desperation and want to give them all the advice I can," she said.