Latino youth are graduating from college at 1/3 the rate of white students. And we all know that education is the engine that will be driving success during the next 25 to 100 years. What are the barriers that keep Latino youth and other minority youth from preparing themselves for achieving an education that enables a lifestyle of the majority of Americans?
Most Latino youth and minorities in the United States come from relatively low income families. As such they usually cannot afford the tuition and other expenses of sending their children to higher education, especially universities. Little do they know that scholarships and other sources of money could make even their wildest dreams come true. The money is there, they just have to be taught how to find it. For documented students it’s almost a sure thing to get a Pell grant from What you need to Know about FASFA. (See the Power Point that this link will download.) But even FASFA grants need guidance for the students to find them.
Many Latino youth and other minority youth either drop out of high school to starting earning money to support their families, or certainly are expected to begin working as soon as they graduate from high school. Many more are expected to care for their younger siblings while both parents work at low paying manual labor jobs. This is the culture that they live in. These are certainly real life barriers. Nevertheless, as the youth are taught, and the parents informed, they can find alternatives to having the youth quite school before college graduation. It takes knowledge, will, resolve, and an expectation of self by the youth, and a belief in the system by the parents.
Many Latino youth and other minority youth start their own families during or soon after high school and have obligations to provide for their care. While most minorities realize the value of a higher education, few achieve it. Latinas have a teen pregnancy rate over 3 times that of Caucasian girls in the 15 to 17 age group 1 which contributes significantly to this influence. This may be a cultural thing, but is not necessarily so for those who have the capability to achieve much more before they start their families. (1) Source: Kaiser Health Disparities Report, Feb, 2009
At some time in middle school or early high school Latino youth and other minority youth begin to notice the disparity between themselves and their Caucasian peers. By high school they often self-segregate themselves into their own racial or ethnic peer groups. As a group these youth begin to see themselves as not likely candidates for higher education or a life-style any different than their parents. With no aspirations for advance education they do not seek out the resources available to them that would enable them to succeed. Nevertheless, these youth can be taught that they have special talents not possessed by their white peers and that they have the capability to excel in their own way, rather than settle for a second rate life.
We at YDI suspect that this self expectation is the greatest hurdle to overcome in encouraging these youth to succeed. As soon as Latino and minority youth gain an expectation that he or she can obtain an advanced education they normally find the resources and motivation to overcome the Financial roadblock, and plan their lives to delay families until they have prepared themselves for entry into the American economic system.
While these major barriers exist in nearly every Latino and minority community in America, we believe that with the right intervention that these barriers can be overcome. The whole picture is in our Latino Initiative. Read it and see where you can help. We also believe that with the Self-Discovery Class implemented in every middle school and high school in America, that the youth themselves will develop the power to overcome any obstacle that is put in their path.
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