Latino Economic Development Center

Report date
November 2017

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

Over the past year, we have been able to invest time into structured data collection from our GED students to find out why students miss class, drop out, or decide to postpone their degree. We have also been able to survey Latino college students through the Latino Scholarship Fund about their experiences. It allowed our stakeholders to give us anonymous and direct feedback about how our programs could improve. In general, it has moved us to be more intentional about soliciting anonymous feedback, which is important, since many Latinos feel apprehensive about providing constructive comments.

Key lessons learned

We learned that many amazing programs exist to help Latino youth succeed in higher education, but the most significant barriers continue to be financial and informational. LEDC has offered scholarships through the Latino Scholarship Fund (LSF) since 2006, but college costs and student needs have far outpaced the growth in our fund. We need to work to grow LSF, but also help applicants to find other resources. Popular education about financial aid and college preparation emerged as a need during several listening sessions, surveys, and in secondary research. In the past, LEDC has done presentations in Spanish on these topics, but they were lightly attended. We could do a better job of meeting parents and students in places where they already gather, especially when we typically visit high schools to promote the scholarship fund. We also have an opportunity to get students and parents involved as volunteers to help grow the fund.

Other key elements of Community Innovation

Having staff who were open to change and come from the Latino community was important. By having bilingual, multicultural staff with strong connections to our students, scholarship winners, and community in general carry out the projects, I think we were able to get honest and good quality information. It was also helpful that all of the staff who worked on this project were open to new ideas and collaboration.

Understanding the problem

We learned that education is the biggest factor in career success. For Latino youth with a college degree, internship experience and networking opportunities would be another important factor, but helping Latinos to pursue a post-secondary degree should be our priority. We learned that financial limitations, informational limitations, immigration status limitations, and family obligations are the barriers that we should focus on addressing. We learned that there is strength in the collective, so LEDC needs to invest in partnerships to make the biggest impact. We also learned that, for a program to be successful, we need to make it a welcoming, encouraging space, which means making our students feel like their teachers, counselors, and classmates care about them as people as well as pupils and will meet them where they are. The focus groups and surveys produced a wealth of ideas of improvements we can make to our classes, scholarship program, and popular education activities.