The Latino Education Crisis: A youthful perspective on failed social policies

Did you know that “Latinos have the worst record of completing college degrees of any group; between 9 and 11 percent for the last three decades.”? African-Americans have been making progress throughout the past thirty years having gone to an increase of 18 percent (2006) as opposed to 11 percent (1975). Sadly, it wasn’t until my meeting at the Trustees Alliance that I realized the critical importance that needs to be placed on not just failed social policies, but particularly the failing policies affecting Hispanic youth in America today.

It was at the first Trustees Alliance meeting for the 2011-2012 school year I realized America’s Promise will not reach our goal of decreasing America’s drop-out rate to 10 percent or less without addressing the devastating situation plaguing the educational inequalities, particularly as it pertains to the achievement gap between Whites and Hispanics (because of the growing Hispanic population). Having lived in both a Puerto Rican and African American household part of my life, it never dawned on me some of the unique challenges facing each group. For example, Hispanics often undergo certain challenges not faced by other groups, such as language barriers. Additionally, according to a report “Challenges and Opportunities to Latino Youth Development: Increasing Meaningful Participation in Youth Development Programs” by Lynne M. Borden, Hispanic youth are much less likely to participate in youth afterschool programs than any other racial group in America.  

According to the University of California, San Francisco in, Fact Sheet on Latino Youth: Education, “Latino high school graduates are less likely to go to college than others.” Addressing the educational problems facing Hispanic youth will need to involve more than just adults that are CEO of corporations and non-profits, but also youth. Youth must realize the importance they have in creating communities that are preparing young people more successfully for our global world. As a youth impact network member on the Alliance Trustees, I have learned that youth will serve the most critical role in helping America’s Promise to reach our goal of having a high school graduation rate of 90% in the United States by 2020. In order to address this problem, however, we need Hispanic youth representation as well as more partnerships with Hispanic organizations looking to change the world, community by community. 

For those of us born into “disadvantaged economic circumstances” and/or handling language barriers, it is extremely important that we receive a great education. This is because education is the main route to possessing a chance of obtaining economic security and gaining employment that is rewarding not only in America, but also anywhere in the world. Grad nation proposes a solution to this problem: “Grad Nation has two goals: (1) ninety percent graduation rate nationwide by 2020, with no school graduating less than 80 percent of its students and (2) regain America’s standing as first in the world in college completion.” However, youth will play the most critical role in making sure that we all reach this goal for the betterment of society.

Looking back upon just my short time involved with America’s Promise thus far, I must admit, that to date, my most meaningful leadership experience has been my role as apart of the America’s Promise Trustees Alliance. I am humbled by the opportunity I have at hand to express the concerns of youth I have gathered through my experiences working along the gulf coast of Mississippi, the Mississippi Delta, throughout the south side of Chicago, and the largely Hispanic population of Dalton, Georgia.

As I spoke with leaders from College Board, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, and professors from historically Black colleges, I became inspired. I was mesmerized by the room full of people who have not just dedicated hours or dollars to the educational crisis in America, but their lives. I have the education opportunities I have because others believed in me (a person they may have not even known) and I want to be that same source of inspiration for others. I left the meeting realizing the most important message ever, spoken by Harold R. McAlindon, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” This is exactly what America’s Promise is accomplishing with Grad Nation.