Investing in Students Early to Ensure Future Success

Posted on 08/16/2016 @ 12:45 AM

By: Jacqueline Hernandez, LULAC National Community Outreach Fellow

In order for Latino students to gain access to higher-paying jobs, it is absolutely critical that higher education and career options after high school are discussed with students early in their high school career. Academic counseling in high schools can help students explore the different options they have once they graduate. In California, Senate Bill No. 451 attempted to expand the role of a school counselor to focus on academic counseling as well as career and vocational counseling; however, not enough was done to ensure that schools had the adequate resources to adjust to this change. Although this bill provides a positive resource to students, not all schools have similar opportunities due to the ways our public schools are funded.

Funding for public school varies by location. Those in low-income communities receive less funding compared to those in high-income communities because of the sources of public funds. In the United States, funding for public schools comes from federal, state, and local sources. Almost half of the funds come from local property taxes, which gives rise to discrepancies in schools between wealthy and impoverished communities. Less funding decreases the opportunities for schools to offer beneficial resources to their students.

Public school funding discrepancies place limitations on the resources that each school can provide, greatly affecting schools in low-income communities. For many vulnerable communities, educational counseling is absolutely necessary for informing students on the different possibilities after graduation. Students can benefit from the guidance and advice they receive from counselors. Despite some schools not having adequate funding to provide students with necessary resources, there are programs that have been created by community stakeholders to help students become leaders and learn about higher education opportunities.

¡Adelante! America is a program developed by LULAC with support from AT&T that encourages Latino youth to develop leadership skills while preparing them to attend college. The program helps improve academic skills while focusing on high school completion. ¡Adelante! America motivates students to become leaders via mentorship opportunities and guest speakers. In addition, students are exposed to educational field trips, conferences, hands-on workshops and volunteerism to help them make career choices as well as prepare them for higher education. The benefit of having one-on-one academic counseling sessions allows students to expand their personal development. Absolutely critical to the success of the program is creating a motivational environment where students are encouraged to further their careers beyond high school graduation. Since it launched in 2008, ¡Adelante! America has encouraged and mentored over 10,500 leaders.

These types of programs can benefit low-income communities by allowing schools to give their students the best motivational environment. Through programs like ¡Adelante! America, LULAC will continue to ensure that more Latinos have access to a quality education that will lay the foundation for a successful future.

Jacqueline Hernandez is a Community Outreach Fellow at the LULAC Sacramento Regional Office in California. She graduated from the University of California, Davis with a degree in Human Development and a minor in Chicano/a Studies.

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