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.