Advocates stress the importance of Latino success in education
Ensuring that Latinos graduate from high school and college is critical to improving the global economy and keeping the U.S. workforce competitive.
That was the message at a ceremony at the Mexican Consulate in San Bernardino on April 1 marking the end of a month devoted to promoting awareness of Latino education.
“We must strengthen Latino education outcomes because our global economy will rely on the successes of our students,” District 62 Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter, D-Rialto, told guests at the event hosted by Mexican Consul Carolina Zaragoza Flores.
Carter’s Assembly bill (ACR 137) established the last week of March as a statewide Week of Advocacy for Latino Education. The awareness week helped build momentum for the Latino Education and Advocacy Days conference, now in its second year at Cal State University San Bernardino.Nearly 1,000 people attended the March 28 conference, including some of the nation’s top education leaders. More than two million others watched or listened over the Internet, radio and through social media. Enrique G. Murillo Jr., executive director of Latino Education and Advocacy Days and professor at Cal State San Bernardino, discussed the education crisis at the consulate ceremony.
Armed with grim statistics, educators are mobilizing for advocacy and action. Statistics show that one-half of all Latino students do not graduate high school. Twelve percent of current working-age Latinos have college degrees compared with 46 percent of working white adults.
Over the last ten years, in San Bernardino County, the Latino student population has increased by 31 percent while the white student population has decreased by 28.7 percent.
“As our state demographics continue to shift, this is the expanding labor force of California’s future,” said Gary S. Thomas, superintendent of San Bernardino County Schools.
A combination of cultural and socioeconomic factors place Latino children at a significant disadvantage compared to other ethnic groups when it comes to education.
Thomas spoke about progress made in county programs that focus on reducing the dropout rate, improving achievement test scores and increasing college completion among Latinos. Among the successes are AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) and Early Assessment Program, which are academic and college prep programs, and the Call to Action Initiative, a collaboration of businesses and organizations whose purpose is to reduce dropout and raise college-going rates.
“These are the types of opportunities we must provide to see that our Latino students – many who are first generation college-going students – are successful,” Thomas said.
“Our public schools need to cross all barriers. A child’s ethnicity, the language they speak, where they live, their parent’s income or educational level, or any other socio-economic indicator should not determine the educational opportunities they receive,” Thomas said.
The Consulate views education as a way for the Latino community to improve its standard of living, Zaragoza said. The consulate has been offering community town halls and workshops on health, banking services and financial education and taxes. Five community centers have been established which offer literacy classes, two at the Central City Lutheran Mission and Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church in San Bernardino.
“There is a wide and intensive effort to promote education in our community,” Zaragoza said.
For more information about education programs, contact the Consulate at (909) 889-9836.