Looking to inspire Hispanic students

Why getting Hispanics into college is a priority

Maria came to the US when she was nine. She crossed the border with her family by foot and settled in Texas. She was happy because here she would be able to attend high school. Her mother stopped going to school after 3rd grade. When she was a junior in high school, her mother passed away after losing a battle with cancer.

“I didn’t think I would be accepted to college, but I wanted to honor my mother and wanted her to be proud of me. She didn’t have the same opportunities I had, so I applied.” She was accepted to Yale to study engineering. Sadly, Maria is an exception, not the rule.

There are about 58 million Hispanics in this country today, according to census data. We are the largest and the fastest growing demographic. By 2060 Hispanics are expected to grow to 106 million and will be one third of the total US population.

Hispanics are mostly young—they are the largest minority group in the public school system. One in four students in public schools in the nation today are Hispanic. In some states, like California and Texas, Hispanics account for more than half of the student body.

But Hispanics lag behind the other demographics when it comes to educational attainment. Only 15% of adult Hispanics hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

The high school dropout rate among Hispanics has decreased greatly in the last decades, from 32% in 2000 to 12% in 2014. But this group still holds the highest dropout numbers compared to blacks, whites, and Asians (7%, 5%, and 1% respectively), according to Pew Research.

79% of Hispanics 18–24 completed high school in 2013 compared with 60% in 2000, according to the Census bureau. Photo credit: Oden.

If we are not able to change the high school and college graduation trends of students of Hispanic descent, the US will be in a lot of trouble. Hispanics will form the workforce of this country. The future of the US depends on the socioeconomic mobility of this massive segment of the population. That will only be possible through education.

There are a number of reasons why Hispanics don’t go to college. Lack of financial resources is the one most often cited by students. But there are others: poor academic performance, limited access to information, lack of support from the family and/or community, low self-esteem, few or no role models in the community, the language barrier, etc.

I want to concentrate my efforts on the “C” students, the ones who would be the first ones in their family to go to college, the ones who don’t think they belong there, those who are thinking they should quit high school and get a job.

I want to inspire young Hispanics to get a higher education and to aspire to achieve their full potential. I want them to believe that getting into college is possible and that there are many ways to get there.

I am proposing to create a network of Hispanic students that will guide and help each other get a higher education. My project has three elements: a video content platform, a resource center, and a mentorship program.

The videos will show Hispanic students already in college talking about how they conquered obstacles and made it into college. They will share their stories of persistence and resilience. In doing so, I am hoping they will show other students like them, from low-income communities, that it is possible, that they too can do it.

I want to document the experience of college life, while at the same time, inform others of resources and programs available for Hispanic students.

In the resource center students will find links to organizations and financial aid programs for Hispanics, including undocumented students.

The mentorship program seeks to match students already in college with those not there yet, to provide support in the college application process and adapting to college life. I have learned in the many interviews I have conducted with students that every single person coming from an underprivileged community wants to give back and help others succeed. There is a tremendous desire to give back. They have unique knowledge—we just want to facilitate the interaction between those succeeding and those who are at risk of quitting.

I am hoping to inspire a new generation of Hispanic students to believe it is possible.