What does Latino academic achievement look like? Unfortunately, that picture has historically been a bleak one, when our students are compared with other ethnicities. We all know that our students have unlimited potential and talent---but all too often, Latino students lack essential resources and tools for achieving academic success.
Changing that picture is a critical goal, not only for our Hispanic communities, but for our entire country. And we are changing the lives of our Hispanic students. As we know, a solid educational foundation provides a step up out of poverty and toward economic stability and professional success. At LNESC, we focus on helping Latino students achieve their academic goals and access the opportunities they deserve. We provide quality educational opportunities to high-need Latino students at all grade levels, with the ultimate goal of creating lifelong learners and strong leaders within our community. So far, we have served over 500,000 students, sent 150,000 students to college, and awarded almost $20 million in scholarships.
In our efforts to prepare students for their futures, we also offer innovative programs that focus on leadership training, college access, literacy, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Latinos tend to be underrepresented in the STEM fields and in those majors. Proficiency in these areas is especially important for our future innovators and leaders; additionally, STEM professionals in these growing fields earn higher-than-average salaries. “Our program targets Latinos, the fastest growing demographic in the U.S., so that we can increase the number of STEM career professions among Latinos,” said Richard Roybal, executive director of LNESC. “Once students are exposed to and become interested in these fields of study, they can aim for careers that will better serve their communities while also helping the U.S. remain competitive in the global marketplace.”
One way that we’re working to increase diversity in the STEM fields is through our Science Corps program, a middle school program designed to ignite students’ curiosity about these subjects and encourage interest in these academic majors. We do this by exposing the students to real-world scientific problems in topics such as materials science, energy, and environmental science. In hands-on sessions led by diverse STEM professionals, students perform experiments, collect data, and complete tasks in pursuit of solutions and answers to those problems. Along the way, many discover a passion for science, as they learn about the fulfilling careers, exciting challenges, and educational opportunities that can await them. We’ve had success with this and similar programs thanks to our many corporate partners like Shell, Verizon, Nissan, AT&T, Ford, Marathon Oil and General Motors who invest in STEM education. I’m pleased to report that the picture of Latino student achievement is changing, and for the better.
As we work together to discover new ways we can help more Latino students achieve academic success, it becomes clear that we must increase access to the tools that facilitate learning and deliver possibilities. Adoption of next-generation broadband services and applications are a most vital tool that can enhance education and help students develop the skills they will need for success in the 21st century economy. Yet, too many of our students lack reliable access to fast, modern broadband service. That’s a problem because broadband access has the potential to transform education in this country for all students.
Broadband connectivity can deliver technology-assisted, individualized lessons to students and to teachers. Online educational games, lessons, and quizzes can engage students, enhancing learning as well as encouraging students to seek out additional information. Innovative learning tools and interactive games can complement classroom learning in every subject, and online courses can offer enrichment or provide extra help to all students, regardless of location or educational level. This essential connectivity can help level the playing field, reducing disparities between schools in different locales and delivering true equality of opportunity to anyone, regardless of ethnicity or race---anyone with broadband access, that is.
Upgrading our nation’s broadband infrastructure and expanding access to 21st century connectivity will help our students find the information and resources they need. An enhanced infrastructure that reaches every corner of the country will also help organizations that are dedicated to increasing academic achievement for these bright young people. Yesterday’s networks can’t meet tomorrow’s needs, and accelerating the shift to advanced broadband-based technologies will help us all benefit from new capabilities, speeds, and services.
When it comes to our students, the question we ought to be asking is, “what could Latino academic achievement look like?” Those old trends are changing; a more hopeful view of the future is emerging. Now is an exciting time for our community. We have new sources of optimism and new ways to reach students and show them the opportunities that could be theirs—but we still have more work to do. Next-generation broadband connectivity can help us unlock potential in our next generation of leaders and innovators.
Elia Quintana is the Director of Corporate Relations, LULAC National Educational Service Centers.
Many would argue that higher education is the economic issue of our time. Unemployment rates of those who have not earned a college degree are double of those who have earned a degree. The White House has set an ambitious goal of producing a higher share of college graduates than any other nation by 2020, hoping to return to a first place ranking after dropping into 12th place.
Higher education is essential for every demographic group working to achieve the American Dream, but how do we embed a value structure that prioritizes higher education into our diverse society?
Today, tools exist to expand opportunities to pursue higher education. State and Federal funding for grants and loans has improved affordability and access for students of all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. Degree programs are increasingly diverse to meet the needs of today’s student. Education institutions are increasingly providing flexible learning options through the expansion of online programs that meet the needs of non-traditional students, who now comprise seventy percent of the overall college population.
Despite the increase in accessibility, there are still large segments of the population that feel success in the American higher education system is beyond their reach. Hispanics are the fastest growing segment of the American population,å and are increasingly critical to bolstering our country’s international economic competiveness. For America to achieve the goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020, we must meet a national goal of graduating 5.5 million Latinos by 2020. Education institutions, such as Apollo Education Group and its subsidiary University of Phoenix, were founded to meet the needs of the non-traditional student; working adults, those with children and those who are not financially supported while attending college. While online options and program flexibility have been integral in opening the doors of higher education to many working, adult Americans, we quickly recognized more must be done to integrate the myriad of diverse ethnicities across our country, including Latinos.
For the Latino student, a decision to pursue higher education is often not just a family decision, but often also a community decision. Therefore, University of Phoenix provides bilingual and bicultural staff in particular locations that can engage families and the community in meaningful conversations in the areas of financial aid, academic advising and enrollment. Beyond tackling the perceived barriers to admission, University of Phoenix also provides guidance and resources that ensure Latino students can be successful within a degree program, as well as after graduation being able to translate their education to a meaningful career.
Apollo Education Group has taken many proactive steps to engage with the national Hispanic community, including ongoing work with the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI), the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI). These are organizations that already provide valuable services to Hispanic students in the areas of civic engagement, educational attainment, and reward excellence in academic achievement. University of Phoenix has provided support for their annual conferences, regional symposia, full-tuition scholarships, and opportunities for professional development.
In terms of Professional Associations, the University has a robust partnership with ALPFA – the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance & Accounting. There are three main areas of engagement: Support of the Annual National Conference and Annual Leadership Conference; Five full-tuition MBA scholarships; and Professional Development. University of Phoenix developed a series of workshops specifically for the Women of ALPFA initiative. In 2014, the University will focus on duplicating the model of the ALPFA partnership with Hispanic organizations in the areas of nursing, criminal justice, and technology.
Within the last two years, University of Phoenix has introduced an important element to students and alumni by implementing a suite of career guidance tools and partnering with America’s top employers to provide access to job search tools, industry analytics and job postings. Students need to understand what industries are growing, what skills are in demand and what positions are utilizing particular skills in order to make the most informed decisions about a degree program.
The Phoenix Career Guidance System™ directly addresses the importance of ensuring a higher education program connects to a career, by providing a user-friendly opportunity to navigate trends in a local job market and within a particular industry to build an individualized view of careers that may best suit them. This is a useful tool for students to make informed career decisions and will help students of all backgrounds get to work.
For University of Phoenix and Apollo Education Group, embedding the value of higher education into our society means ensuring curriculum is relevant, resources for career planning are utilized when making degree program choices, and college is affordable for students of all backgrounds. The Latino community has a tremendous opportunity to help lead our country back to being an international education and economic leader through strong college attendance, and strong representation in the U.S. workforce.
Luis Tavel serves as the National Director of Latino Affairs for the Apollo Education Group, helping establish meaningful partnerships with national Hispanic Community Organizations, Corporations, and Professional Networking Associations.