Education called a key to Hispanic success |

Education called a key to Hispanic success

Veronica Whitney

If the Hispanic middle class isn’t growing at the same pace as the Anglo middle class, it’s because Hispanic children aren’t concentrating on their education, said April Heredia, a mother of two who lives in Gypsum.

“It’s harder for us because we’re not educated. Lots of kids drop out of school or college,” said Heredia. “My older sister got her high school diploma after she dropped out of school. In my family, I was the first person to get a four-year degree diploma.”

Polly Baca, of the Latin American Research and Service Agency, agreed that too many Hispanic high school students are dropping out and few are going to college or technical school.

“Our buying power has increased and we can support our business people, but we still have problems when it comes to educating our children,” Baca said.

One of the problems the Hispanic middle class faces is that the school system isn’t geared toward helping Latino children, Baca said.

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“Part of it is language, but also a lack of cultural awareness,” she said.

“You have to feel good when you go to school,” she added. “Future success has to do with education. We have to push our public school system into being more culturally sensitive.”

Eli Vega, a Breckenridge resident, said his parents didn’t finish school, and he got a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a masters in human resource management. To Vega, the secret for Hispanic success in the United States isn’t necessarily advanced degrees, but simply learning English.

“I see many immigrants who don’t learn English,” he said. “Some are here to work and educate their children and send money to Mexico.”

Although she didn’t go to college, Leticia Garcia’s 23-year-old daughter will graduate this year from the University of Colorado. Her other daughter, who’s 17, will spend a year studying in Hungary after graduating from high school.

“We work to give them the opportunity that we didn’t have,” said Garcia, who owns Garcia’s market in Carbondale with her husband.

Still, to Heredia, Anglo Americans are more ambitious than Hispanics. “When I was in high school, the counselors didn’t seek me out to go to college,” Heredia said. “I went to them. Now, things are changing.”

Beth Silva, director of Unit of Student Assessment in the Colorado Department of Education, said since ‘No Child Left Behind’ law was passed, some school districts have been working very hard to improve achievement of Hispanic students.

“Since the CSAP test started in 1997, in general, from the large point of view, you see some points go up and some down,” Silva said.

“Generally, we see pretty good work from students who are English-language learners.

Mike Gass, director of secondary education for the Eagle County School District, said a Hispanic student who stays in the district for three years has a great shot at being successful.

“After three years, we start to see significant progress,” Gass said. “The younger those kids come to the district, the faster they transition.

“Our biggest challenge,” he added, “is our Hispanic male achievement in high school, and keeping them in school.”

Even though some of the Hispanic parents have two or three jobs, Gass said they’re very responsive when called by school officials.

“They’ll drop everything they’re doing and they’ll come,” he said. “They’re very thankful for what we’re doing for their kids. They see education as a true opportunity.”

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