Eva Longoria Funds UCLA Study on Latinas and Education

Latina teens who are bilingual, have Hispanic teachers and counselors, and are involved in extracurricular activities have a stronger likelihood of attending college, a new study has found.

The report, “Making Education Work for Latinas in the U.S.,” was conducted by The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at the University of California, Los Angeles, and commissioned by the actress Eva Longoria and her foundation.

Longoria’s foundation focuses on boosting education and entrepreneurship among Latinas. She hopes to use the report’s findings to better help Latinas.

Civil Rights Project co-director and education professor Patricia Gandara highlighted the importance of raising the education levels of Hispanic women.

“Latinas are the linchpin of the next generation — how a child fares in school is highly correlated with their mother’s education,” Gándara said in a news release. “If the cycle of under-education is to be broken for the Latino population, it will depend to a large extent on changing the fortunes of young women.”

Latinas benefit from involvement in extracurricular activities, which promote increased self-esteem. However, they face barriers to being more involved at school that include money, transportation issues, family needs and not feeling included.

The study shares that many Latinas enroll in non-selective two-year colleges because they are not aware of the greater opportunities at more selective four-year universities. Students who enroll in community college are less likely to graduate with degrees.

The paper includes the success stories of seven young Latinas. One of the young women recalled the influence of a Hispanic counselor.

“She was a person who really influenced me to want something more with my 
life because she would tell me that because I was a Latina that I would be stereotyped..you don’t want to prove people right,you want to prove them wrong! You want to be able to say ‘I’m Latina and I’m going to college and I’m furthering my education!”

Related Links:

“UCLA Study Funded by Eva Longoria IDs Factors That Improve Educational Outcomes for Latinas,” UCLA Newsroom.

“Making Education Work for Latinas in the U.S.,” The Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

The Eva Longoria Foundation

Mother-Daughter Program Urges More Latinas on to College

In 1986, University of Texas at El Paso professor Josie Tinajero took a look around and noticed very few Latinas graduating from college. So that year, she created the Mother-Daughter Program; she realized that mothers play a pivotal role in their daughters’ educational choices and decided to include them in the college preparatory program.

“The most important role models for young girls, especially in the Hispanic community, is found with the family system,” Tinajero told The Deseret News this week. “Hispanic mothers have a huge impact on how their daughters make decisions.”

The program focuses on sixth-grade girls. About 500 mother-daughter teams meet monthly for various activities focusing on issues such as personal, career and academic goals. They tour university facilities, perform community service and hear presentations from successful Hispanic women.

The program seeks to build the girls’ self-esteem while directing them toward higher education. In addition, by involving mothers it increases parental involvement and awareness of higher education. Because of the program’s success, a father-son program also has been launched.

“The program is a success because we are addressing this problem as a community,” Tinajero said in the story.

Program leaders say it has even inspired mothers to pursue their own educational goals. That’s especially important, given that recent data released by the National Center for Education Statistics found children with more educated mothers tend to perform better on math, reading and science assessments as eighth graders.

Do you know of any similar programs in your area that focus on parent relationships? I also wanted to mention another program doing similar work in Austin, Texas. The Con Mi Madre (with my mother) program  serves more than 700 girls in the 6th-12th grades annually also offers support to prompt more girls to pursue higher education.

Related Links:

– “Moms key in Hispanic women going to college.” Deseret News.

– Mother-Daughter Program – The University of Texas at El Paso.

– “Losing the fear: UTEP reaches out to families.” El Paso Times.

– “Hispanic girls face special barriers on road to college.” Education Week.

– Con Mi Madre – Mothers and Daughters Raising Expectations.

Latinas Face Special Challenges on Path to College

Young Latinas constantly hear the message in school that earning a college degree is important. Then why do so many believe that it’s not an attainable goal for themselves? I delved into this issue in an article for Education Week‘s recent “Diplomas Count” report.

There can never be one answer to such a complex problem, though economic and cultural factors certainly play a role. A 2009 study by the National Women’s Law Center and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund outlined some of the biggest issues.

The “Listening to Latinas” study found that many Hispanic girls assume caregiver roles in their extended families–either for other children or elderly relatives–and that can make it more challenging for them to reach their educational goals. Loyalty to supporting the family can affect the decisions they make when deciding the direction of their own lives.

For my EdWeek story, I spoke with Celina Cardenas, a community relations coordinator in the Richardson Independent School District outside of Dallas. She mentors Hispanic girls who are wrestling with what to do after high school. She mentioned that girls may be reluctant to move out of their parents’ home to attend college in another city.

“It’s kind of like you’re born with responsibility—especially the girls,” she said. “Doing something on your own may not sit very comfortably with them because they may not want to let anyone down. I talk to them a lot about not feeling selfish that they’re disappointing their family by going away, and understanding there’s nothing wrong with having those goals.”

The MALDEF study also highlighted that Hispanic girls as a group also are more likely to struggle with poverty, depression and high teen pregnancy rates.

Statistics show that while Latinas are faring better than Latino males, they are not doing as well as black or white women in college attainment. According to an analysis by Richard Fry of the Pew Hispanic Center of 2011 Census survey data, about 17 percent of Hispanic women ages 25 to 29 have at least a bachelor’s degrees, compared with about 10 percent of Hispanic males, 43 percent of white females and 23 percent of black females in that age bracket.

Search for the local community groups in your region that are trying to help girls in your area. For the Education Week story, I followed  the Dallas chapter of the national non-profit group Girls Inc. as they led a large group of girls on daily college tours over spring break. I also visited the Alley’s House organization in Dallas, which empowers teen mothers by helping them get an education. And the nonprofit Texas-based  online magazine Latinitas gives Hispanic girls a venue to write and have their voices heard.

Related Links:

– “Hispanic Girls face Special Barriers on Road to College.” Education Week. 

– “Listening to Latinas: Barriers to High School Graduation.”

– “Diplomas Count.”