Dissertation: Impact of Persistence on Academic Success for Latino a College Students

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¶ … Latinos -- Introduction

It is widely understood that that Latino community is the fastest growing ethnic / cultural group in the United States. According to the U.S. Census data, California is among the states with fast rising numbers of Hispanics (most often alluded to in this paper as Latinos). As of 2006 in Los Angeles County Latinos comprise 47.3% of the population (www.census.gov) (U.S. Census); in Orange County Latinos comprise 32.9% of the population (U.S. Census). In other counties the percentages are startling, especially for those who are unaware of the rapid growth of Latinos. Kern County, close to Los Angeles, is 45.2% Latino; Monterey County (near the Bay Area) is 51.5% Latino; Riverside County is 42.2% Latino; San Bernardino County is 46% Latino; and San Diego County is 30.1% Latino (U.S. Census).

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) asserts that as of 2008, Mexican-born immigrants accounted for 30.1% of all foreign born individuals living in the U.S., "…by far the largest immigrant group" in the U.S. (Terrazas, et al., 2009, p. 13) (www.migrationinformation.org). Moreover, in 2008 (Terrazas, 2009) 46.9% of the 38 million foreign born living in the U.S. reported that they were Hispanic or of Latino heritage. And as to the 46.9 million people living in the U.S. In 2008 that identified themselves as "having Latino or Hispanic ancestry, nearly two-thirds (63.0%) were native-born U.S. citizens" (Terrazas, 2009, p. 13); the remaining 38.0% of Latinos were immigrants (not born in the U.S.) (Terrazas, 2009, p. 13).

In 2008, there were 11.4 million foreign born from Mexico living in the U.S. And they are "overwhelmingly concentrated in the West and Southwest" (Terrazas, 2009, p. 13). To wit, 37.3% of the Mexican immigrants live in California; 21% live in Texas; and the remainder of foreign-born Mexicans live in Illinois (6.3%), Arizona (5.4%), and Georgia (2.5%), according to Terrazas on page 13.

There are many more categories of data that show the impact of Latino populations on the U.S. economy and on urban growth dynamics, but suffice it to say, the Latino community (which is not truly a "race" or an "ethnic group" and certainly is not homogenous) is a substantial group and educators are challenged every day to provide a good educational foundation -- for all students, including Latino youth -- in as many instances as they can. For Latinos to have a fair shot at the so-called American Dream, and for Latinos to gain the skills and the savvy to compete first in colleges and universities, and later in the workplace, the starting point is K-12 classrooms -- with (hopefully) competent, enthusiastic teachers -- and where there are stumbling blocks or problems, the helpful counselor's office should be well-poised to help.

A Current Issue: Dropout Rate

Moreover, due to recent legislative efforts (in particular, Arizona) that are designed to punish those Latinos in the U.S. without legal papers, a pall of unfairness and cultural bias is cast over the community like a shadow from a cloud that blocks out the sun for as far as one can see. This shadow may create militant resistance within the community, and young Latinos may fear they are growing up in a society that questions their legitimacy.

Those young Latinos that are on the fringe of the dropout milieu can and do experience impatience and confusion with reference to completing their education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (http://nces.ed.gov) (NCES) -- a division of the U.S. Department of Education -- in the year 1980 the dropout rate for "Hispanic" youth ages 16-24 was 35.2%. That same 1980 NCES data shows the dropout rate for Caucasian youth the same age (11.4%) and for African-American youth (19.1%). A few years later, in 2001, the Latino youth dropout rate was reduced to 27% of those in school and by 2007 the rate had shrunk to 21.4% of those Latinos in high school (compared with 8.4% dropping out in the Black community and 5.3% of Caucasian youth dropping out), according to data provided by NCES.

Latino vs. Hispanic -- which is correct and why?

Which is the proper term for students of Mexican heritage, or Puerto Rican heritage, or say from Guatemala? When a counselor is working with a Spanish-speaking young man from Panama, is that boy Hispanic or Latino? According to Rivera-Barnes -- writing in Latino Education in the U.S., circa 2007 -- the word "Hispanic" literally translated means that the person came from Espana (Spain). But the ties between Spain and Mexico were "severed long ago" and yet the word "Hispanic" has lingered on for years (Rivera-Barnes, 2007, p. 281). Rivera-Barns (who calls the word "Hispanic" a "warped word adopted by gray, naive bureaucrats whose only concern was counting Hispanics") clearly finds the word "Hispanic" offensive (2007, p. 281).

Hispanic became a label that was "preferred" on Madison Avenue, in boardrooms, on "Capitol Hill press conferences" and "newsrooms across the nation" (Rivera-Barnes, 2007, p. 281). Rivera-Barnes mentions Latina writer Sandra Cisneros who calls the "H word" a "repulsive slave name" (2007, p. 281). And even though using "Latino" can be thought of as "grouping several ethnic or social groups and national origins as a single entity" she believes it "could very well be the right word" (Rivera-Barnes, 2007, p. 281). It could be the right word for this culture because it "refers to a specific yet changing reality," Rivera-Barnes explains, and indeed the changing reality in the U.S. is that Latinos are not only the fastest growing culture in the U.S., they soon will be a majority culture in states like California (2007, p. 281). The point of using Latino is that many young people and others of Latin descent prefer Latino to Hispanic, just as in the 1960s and 1970s Latinos preferred "Chicano" to "Mexican-American."

Substance-Using Latino Youth -- Edward Cannon, et al.

Professionals in schools (including counselors) must be fully cognizant of the social and personal problems that Latino students are up against, and one of those issues is substance abuse. According to a scholarly article (Cannon, et al., 2008, p. 199) some 16.4% of Latino youths aged 12-17 use alcohol on a regular basis. Referencing that same age group, the article asserts that 10.8% of Latino youths use drugs (marijuana, prescription pain relievers, hallucinogens and cocaine) (Cannon, 2008, p. 199). An even more disturbing statistic is that in 2003, there were 28 reported cases of AIDS per 100,000 Latinos (compared with 7.9% per 100,000 Caucasians) (Cannon, p. 200). Moreover, the data provided in this article suggests that Latino youth born in the U.S. "have a higher incidence of alcohol and substance use" than Latinos born outside of the U.S. (this suggests that those Latinos born in the U.S. have become acculturated, which is logical and not surprising) (Cannon, 2008, p. 200).

Perceptions from Latino College Students -- Luti Vela-Gude, et al.

An article in the journal Professional School Counseling relates to the frustration that present-day Latino college students experienced as high school students. The authors note that while 67% of "Anglo students pursue higher education, only 43% of Latino students enroll in some form of postsecondary education" (Vela-Gude, 2009, p. 272). And for those Latinos in college who were surveyed for this article, many felt that school personnel (counselors included) in high school "had low expectations of them" (Vela-Gude, 2009, p. 272). Many Latino college students reported being told they "would not graduate from high school" and that they were actually "facilitated out of the education system" (e.g., encouraged to pursue a GED rather than finishing high school) (Vela-Gude, 2009, p. 272).

For example, a student interviewed by Luti Vela-Gude said she asked permission to go to the library to complete an application for a scholarship; the teacher "indicated that it was a waste of my time," (Vela-Gude, 2009, p. 272) she said. In further studies, Vela-Gude found that teachers and counselors "did not have time to guide and mentor Latino students who wanted to pursue higher education" (Vela-Gude, 2009, p. 272). Given the data accumulated through this article -- fifty-seven Latino students were surveyed and "none…mentioned teachers as providing support" -- it is vital for K-12 schools to "provide Latino students with the information and preparation they need to put them in a position to be able to access higher education" (Vela-Gude, 2009, p. 273).

Several important actions are required of school counselors when advising Latino students, according to the article. One, the American School Counselor Association has a framework to use in helping Latino students through: a) guidance curricula; b) individual student planning; c) "responsive services"; and d) "systems support" (Vela-Gude, 2009, p. 273). Classroom presentations are always effective in giving students college information, the authors report. Also, in order to "counteract the negative impact of curriculum tracking based on perceived ability levels, Latino students should be encouraged and advised to enroll in challenging coursework" (Vela-Gude, 2009, p. 273). Moreover, because "many Latino students suffer from depression and low self-esteem, counseling services must be readily available," Vela-Gude… [END OF PREVIEW]

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