This past year, the Pew Hispanic Center released results from the U.S. Census Bureau that found Latino college student populations meeting a number of milestones in 2011:
- The number of Latinos enrolled in college exceeded 2 million
- Latinos made up 16.5% of all college enrollments
- Latinos made up 25.2% of student enrolled in two-year colleges
- For the first time, Latinos were the nation’s largest minority among four-year college and university students
These milestones reflect a continuing upward trend now seen by many college admissions departments. Should this be a wakeup call for college administrators? One university in rural northwestern Michigan decided to answer the call.
Last month I wrote a post about a new human centered design initiative from the Keller Futures Center for improving resilience among Latino youth. Interesting enough, about the time we were completing the project, an article appeared in The Rapidian (a local Grand Rapids online news and information source) about the Grand Rapids Latino student achievement gap. Unfortunately, the statistics look bleak. According to the article post, Grand Rapids students in the eleventh grade are scoring at 18% proficiency in math and 32% in reading compared to statewide scores of 52% in math and 63% in reading. What are causes of these educational gaps and what can be done to close them?
Since last month, I have been involved in a new initiative that uses human centered design to solve issues within Latino communities. The Keller Futures Center, an innovative program through the Grand Rapids Community College, facilitates project-based initiatives to help solve unmet and emerging needs in West Michigan communities. Previous research determined that resiliency is a key ingredient in the success of Latino youth – specifically within education. Existing as a community coalition representing education, business, non-profits, philanthropy, parents, and students, the Latino Resiliency Project will innovate for seven weeks on the topic of what drives resiliency in our youth and determine how resiliency has a positive impact on the educational achievement and overall life conditions for Latino youth.
Several years ago, my wife and I went to the college graduation party for a son of one of her close friends. The young man being honored had just finished a degree in criminal justice from Grand Rapids Community College and was the first in his family to pursue higher education. After proud family members and close friends gave him a standing ovation for his efforts, he composed himself and thanked everyone for attending. I recall the how the conversations that day revolved around him being a pioneer in his family. I also wondered if we would begin to see more Latinos like this young man pursuing higher education. A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center would seem to answer my question. Perhaps more Latino families, like the one above, will soon be attending college graduation parities.