Before we can educate a Latino or Latina youth, or any youth, the youth have to believe in themselves, and believe in the possibility of their success in higher education. Self Image or Self Identity: The majority of multicultural youth already have a strong sense of self within their family and culture, as well as a strong work ethic. However their sense of self, their sense of who they are in the American culture, and especially their goals towards higher education, is severely lacking. They are often torn between being Latino or being white. Using strategies to open to them a new vision of themselves, of who they are, of who they can become, of their worth, and of their capabilities for higher education, can motivate them to consider a whole new life for themselves. Some people call this “finding their voice’. Thus, our Strategies for Success focus on opening to them this new vision. Youth Discovery supports programs that incorporate as many of these strategies as possible.
The Strategies for Success: Research points to the most powerful factors that influence youth to gain a new self identity include the following, (most of these points have been used by Boy Scouts of America for over 100 years):
One time events have little lasting effect. Programs need continuous activities such as weekly or daily after school club meetings, and, especially for older youth, outdoor adventure activities. Activities that last throughout the year are especially beneficial.
Multicultural youth, and particularly Latino youth (the majority of multicultural youth in the United States) as well as white youth, identify very strongly with adults and older youth that they look up to and respect. By initiating educational programs that intimately connect youth with successful role models, they can be influenced to see their world in a different light. The role models can be either Caucasian or multicultural adults, or especially with these youth, older youth who have already caught the vision of a different life. Role models can successfully inspire them to envision a new self identity. Mentoring programs that use youth as the mentors build the self confidence of the mentor at the same time that the mentee sees the example of the role model.
Mentors help youth to overcome the challenges that hinder success in life. Youth that have limited access to pre-social opportunities are more likely to engage in destructive behaviors. Appropriate mentors in the life of these youth can help reduce the likelihood of academic failure, crime, and poverty. YDI understands that the social-economic conditions of their families leads to a situation in which these youth are not obtaining the kind of role models and mentorship that typically does not prepare them to enter the American economic system. YDI seeks to solve this situation in two ways, by providing role models through its programs, and by educating parents and helping them get involved in the life of their children.
Providing programs that develop leadership, particularly through long term involvement in peer led and peer mentoring programs, gives these youth the opportunity to develop their social skills, their self confidence, and a new vision of their capabilities. Latino Leadership styles are unique and the youth should be aware of the strength of these styles.
In this day of electronic gadgets, getting youth into the outdoors, especially in physically challenging situations, builds confidence, leadership, and self esteem. The “No Child Left Indoors”movement and the Boy Scouts of America movement have shown the therapeutic effect of the outdoors on youth. Both adventurous play in the outdoors and constructive outdoor employment have a role in building self confidence and expanding self concept.
Language and Literacy: One of the main obstacles for Latino and multicultural youth is the language barrier. An ESL teacher sadly said recently of Latino youth, “They are illiterate in two languages.” We strongly support the youth being fluent in two languages. The lack of fluency in reading and writing greatly affects their self confidence and vision of going on to higher education, or achieving a life greater than that of manual laborers like most of their parents. YDI realizes that literacy is one of the cornerstones necessary for advancement of disadvantage multicultural youth. Thus YDI encourages the programs it sponsors to focus on academics.
A great challenge of multicultural youth is their cultural identity. Should they maintain association with the culture of their parents or the local culture? It is imperative for their self identity to be able to accept and live in both worlds. There is much about their native culture about which they should be very proud and able to maintain as they assimilate into the local culture.
Just as it is imperative for these youth to maintain an identity with their own cultural, it is also essential that they become at ease with the local culture. Developing friendships and respect with both adults and youth of the local culture enables them to accept the world in which they live and visualize how to successfully live in this culture.
Involving parents and extended families in the new paradigm these youth are beginning to grasp, is essential for the family to be able to support the change. With support from the family, the youth can more successfully change their vision.
It is important to involve both male and female youth in order to affect the whole culture. Females need advanced education just as much as males do. With the females educated they are more able to support their husbands in his educational aspirations.
Opportunities for community service helps establish a sense of self worth and connection to the culture of their current world. Community service opportunities are available through church groups, social clubs, school groups, and many others.
A major reason for the high rate of high school drop out is for employment so that the youth can help support the family. YDI recognizes this challenge in the live of these youth and thus seeks to provide them with opportunities of employment that, instead of interfering in their educational process, complements it. By providing jobs for youth as mentors to their peers and younger children, we enable them to remain involved academically, raise their self confidence, be involved with other successful peers, be involved with university student mentors, and have an income while staying in school, all of which raises their self concept and self esteem.
Other things that must be considered when thinking about youth development are:
Once multicultural youth obtain a higher self expectation then they begin to solve the problems themselves that have traditionally held them back.
While the families of multicultural youth do not typically have the money at home to send their children to higher education, there are many grants and scholarships available that enable any such youth to achieve an advanced education. This includes FASFA Pell grants for nearly every youth, as will as many scholarships from government, universities, and private sources.
Again, once multicultural youth change their self expectation they tend to delay starting a family during high school or immediately after. If they do have family obligations they still find a way to prepare themselves to better support their family.
Youth Discovery Inc.
60 West 1000 North
Logan, UT 84321
Copyright © 2014 Youth Discovery Inc, All rights reserved