For many Latino parents, witnessing their child's college graduation is the embodiment of the American Dream. But without the tools to properly equip educators and students for success, that dream will not become a reality for too many families. Statistics have shown that 61% of Latino high school students enroll in college, but only 41% graduate. This grim fact fueled an intensive discussion with some of the country's most prestigious educators at yesterday's Education Town Hall hosted by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) at the 2010 NCLR Annual Conference in San Antonio. The town hall, "Educating Our Way Out of the Economic Crisis: Everyone College-Ready," gave students, educators, and activists the opportunity to discuss program and policy strategies for equipping Latino high school students with the tools they need to transition into college and later compete in a competitive workforce.
Dr. Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education, mentioned that a world-class education is a prerequisite for success. As the fastest-growing segment of America's population, Latino youth are inextricably linked to the vitality of America's economy, making their educational achievement all the more imperative. The barriers to educational opportunities for minority students cannot be ignored. Limited access to educational resources, low expectations for success, and a lack of clear career pathway have contributed to increasing high school dropout rates, hindering Latino youth from achieving their full potential.
According to Dr. Ricardo Romo, President of the University of Texas at San Antonio, "the best way to help students succeed is to put good leaders in charge." Following his remarks, panelists agreed that appointing quality leaders in America's school system, holding them accountable for the success of their students, and raising the level of expectations of academic achievement will enhance the framework for building a quality educational system that will produce our nation's future workers.
At NCLR, we believe that making sustainable investments in the future of young people will impact our country's economic future. Every day, Latino students and teachers in NCLR's network of charter schools prove that setting high expectations and providing quality instruction produces the kind of results we need to get from all public schools. For over eight years, NCLR has taken steps to promote and track the academic achievement of Latino youth through after-school models such as our Escalera Program: Taking Steps to Success, which provides career exploration, academic enrichment, and leadership and personal development to its students. Further, in conjunction with the NCLR Annual Conference, our annual Lideres Summit convenes more than 450 students from throughout the country to take part in educational workshops and town halls that encourage them to not only succeed in academics but also follow the path to a career that will provide economic security. As we seek reform for America's educational system, we must ensure that all students can receive a quality education that will lead to the increased economic stability of our nation.