While in college I had the opportunity to volunteer with a program called the Hispanic Youth Career Conference. The HYCC board was founded in an effort to recruit an underrepresented population of students to the college, Latinos. Despite our nearness to passing the Dream Act, which would allow undocumented resident youth to attend college and become citizens, our own Latino children continue to shy away from higher education. Why? In surveys and discussions, teens told us about their fears of pursing an education that they felt either they didn’t deserve or couldn’t achieve. Many students cited their family’s lower incomes, average grades in school and lack of role models as reasons why they couldn’t envision themselves attending college.
Why all the fear?
These kids showed us why. Many of them came from low income families, were educated in underfunded districts and had never seen a college graduate in their communities. For a child who hasn’t witnessed higher education being a reality for others like them, it can be all the more difficult to believe that their own dreams are possible. I experienced similar fears as a child of poverty. I didn’t believe that I had the skills or financial resources to make it in college and I was advised throughout school to “pick a career track that doesn’t involve college” because my parents couldn’t afford the tuition. With some motivation from a good friend, I applied anyway and discovered that because of my parents income
, I would be awarded federal funding and scholarships that paid for my education expenses almost in full
. This goes to show that educators don’t know it all. Without realizing it, they can often underestimate and ill prepare children who they see as being “unlikely” to go on to higher education, further widening the achievement gap between Latinos and their peers. Even when educators do reach out to these students with attempts to provide guidance, often there just aren’t enough counselors or resources to go around in these underfunded schools which can leave both teachers and students feeling hopeless. As a result, many children are left struggling on their own if they do wish to attend college. This then leaves the burden to fall on parents to help their children achieve success in higher education. A concept that is fairly problematic because many parents are in the same boat as their children, having known few who’s success could be shared as an example. By no fault of their own, many parents are just not aware of the resources or guidance available to them. But parents do have one important tool that creates an advantage for their children. Unlike schools, which may not realize our childrens’ full potential, parents can be their child’s strongest advocate and provide the guidance that they might not find elsewhere. Researchers have determined that parent involvement is the key factor to success
for Latino youth pursuing higher education (read the findings
). Knowing that unequal education and inadequate preparation puts our children at a disadvantage and that we are the key to filling in those gaps, parents must take action.
What can parents do to prepare their children for higher education?
- Contact colleges to gain a better understanding of the steps needed to secure financial aid and enroll in classes. Securing aid is not difficult once you know the process.
- Ask about a mentoring program that could help your child to meet others like them and realize that they have the same chance at success as their peers.
- Pick a college course that your child is interested in and have yourself or a family member sit in with your child to help them realize that materials do not exceed their abilities.
- Connect your child with a counselor in high school and college that will guide them with tools for success.
- Help your child to find “job shadow” opportunities that can allow them to spend a few hours with individuals who work in a field that interests them. Removing certain careers from their pedestals can help our children to see them as reachable.
- Connect with local and national Hispanic organizations for support and resources that help Latinos to succeed in higher education.
Latino parents aren’t alone in their journey to realize higher education for their children. There are organizations that can help. In recent years, a variety of organizations have been developed to support parents and youth in their pursuit of college degrees. Many offer resources, mentoring, and scholarships to high school graduates with further academic goals and programs that help our youth to develop the confidence and skills necessary to realize their dreams. In February 2010, Univision
, the popular Spanish entertainment network began it’s own education initiative, Es el momento (The moment is now)
, to provide resources to parents in an effort to help more Latinos gain access to higher education. With only 55% of Hispanic students graduating from high school and only 20% adequately prepared to succeed in four year colleges, their success is in the hands of parents and organizations that step in to provide resources when schools fail in doing so. The non-profit organization, Latism.org,
is also committed to advancing Latinos into a more affluent and successful future. LATISM
(Latinos in Social Media
) is the largest organization of Latino and Latina professionals connected through social media. Through LATISM, professionals, parents and youth all have the equal opportunities to access resources and leaders within the Hispanic community via social networking sites like Facebook
. With the growth of the internet, parents have some amazingly helpful resources at their fingertips and have every opportunity to create a successful future for their children. And so, ahora “es el momento”
! We now have the power to take our childrens’ education into our own hands and guide them to success. Get started by visiting the informational links throughout this post.
* This post was written with the support and sponsorship of Latism.org and Univsion’s “Es el momento” campaign. Show your love by joining them to further higher education for Latinos and Latinas. *