NCLR: Ways We Must Help Latino Youth Achieve Success

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Business

At a noon forum Wednesday focused on Latino youth, Dr. Patricia Foxen, Deputy Director of Research at NCLR (National Council of La Raza), introduced her recently authored study, “Resilient Latino Youth: In Their Own Words,” which focuses on the stories of young, second-generation American Latinos who struggled to cope with poverty, discrimination or disengagement but overcame those obstacles to become productive, contributing members of society. The discussion—led by NCLR experts in Latino youth, demography and community programs—emphasized the need for policies and programs that can help Latino youth achieve greater gains in education, careers and overall quality of life. NCLR experts at the forum concluded that five points could serve as a starting point to concentrate resources and efforts on improving opportunities for this vital segment of our population.

Tap into the natural resiliency of Latino youth. Resilience traits among second-generation Latino youth include individual attributes such as optimism, perseverance, social skills, empathy and a strong willingness to give back to their communities; family and cultural traits such as responsibility and solidarity toward the extended family; and community factors such as the presence of adults and mentors who can guide and support youth in difficult environments and through the challenging moments of adolescence.

Help their families escape poverty. One-third of Latino children are in poverty today; poverty tends to continue for generations and is the basis of many other problems these children experience. Their families need living wages and affordable housing.

Implement policies such the “REDEEM Act,” which promotes rehabilitation rather than criminalization of youth, and reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Common Core State Standards so that schools will better meet the needs of Latino students and improve the graduation rate of this critical group. Latinos are graduating from high school at higher rates than in past years (73 percent), have the lowest high school dropout rate in recent history (12.7 percent) and are enrolled in higher education in record numbers (37.5 percent). Only 51 percent of Latino college students, however, will earn a bachelor’s degree within six years.

Fund culturally appropriate, holistic programs that support positive youth development and mental health, reinforce learning in school and workforce skills and introduce students to new interests and technologies. For youth and families living in poor immigrant neighborhoods, community-based interventions such as the NCLR Escalera Program provide critical support to youth and their parents. Through mentoring and other programs, Escalera promotes career exploration, skills and leadership development, personal development, academic support and overall well-being.

Provide mentors who can help youth become ready for a successful, productive future. “Community-based organizations like Gads Hill Center in Chicago provide critical supports to help youth overcome adversity usually rooted in poverty, discrimination, inadequate education and violent neighborhoods,” said Maricela Garcia, Chief Executive Officer, Gads Hill Center, who spoke at today’s forum. “To increase chances to build resilience, children must develop a sense of hope that comes from caring adults. The role of mentors is very powerful in the life of a child. When youth develop strong self-esteem and socioemotional competencies, they do well in school and in life.”

The new report, “Resilient Latino Youth: In Their Own Words,” can be found at

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