By Christine Cooke, Jose Enriquez, and Student
Published on November 14, 2017

Christine Cooke: Latinos In Action is more than just a class popping up in schools across the nation. It’s a path of excellence for many K-12 Latino students. Latinos In Action welcomes all students but has an emphasis on helping Latino students focus on four main pillars: student assets, leadership, service learning, and college and career readiness.

Latinos In Action is a great base to begin the conversation of having Latino students and/or the Latino community and any other community come together and bridge many of the gaps and/or misconceptions that are out there. In schools where Latinos In Action is available, students interested in the program must apply. But the application process allows for a holistic decision and welcomes all types of students.

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Some students are English language learners; many are doing just fine in school; and others are high achievers. What binds them is the purpose of Latinos In Action – bringing whatever good each child has and building on it.

Jose Enriquez: Most of the time, our system, they have classes for this population, and they talk about deficits. So you’re in this class because you’re an English learner, or you’re in this class because you’re at risk, or you’re in this class because there’s a need for remediation.

Our kids already come with assets. It’s not a deficit model. It’s an asset model. Well, what I want to do is say to the student, “You’re in this class because you’re bilingual. You have two languages that you can use. And it’s an asset. And you’re bicultural – you’ll understand two systems, two culturas. And two cultures can give you more strength because you’re able to talk to more people and influence more people in a good way.”

That’s what I wanted – I wanted our youth to understand that they have all these assets, but I also want our populace, our community to understand that they bring all these strengths to the table. One of the biggest things for Latinos In Action is that we didn’t want to have a goal of just graduating students from high school. What we wanted is graduation from college and university. So our push was that high school graduation was just a step to what we want them to do.

So we actually have a 95 percent graduation rate, and 85 percent of our kids matriculate on to college, whether it be a two-year or a four-year, post-grad, etc.

Cooke: Students and teachers alike refer to the program as a family. While Latinos In Action is a place of academic growth and opportunity, for many it’s also a place of belonging.

Student: At first I didn’t really see a purpose of coming to school. So LIA has helped me find my purpose of why I want to continue with my education – why I want to go to college. It makes me feel like I’m actually part of a family.

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Christine is director of Sutherland Institute’s Center for Educational Progress. She is a member of the Utah State Bar, with a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and a law degree from Arizona State University. She worked as an English teacher at a public school and a residential treatment center. She also worked with the Arizona Office of the Governor, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, Goldwater Institute, and The Heritage Foundation.

Christine is regularly featured in national, local and regional publications and radio shows. Christine is an appointed member of the state Competency Based Learning Review Committee. She also serves on the Greater Avenues Community Council. She loves music and making cookies.

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