Yet another strength on its advocacy efforts for Latinos’ civil rights, is the League of United Latin American Citizens’ (LULAC) multidisciplinary approach to provide educational opportunities to the Hispanic community in the United States.
LULAC’s National Educational Service Centers (NESC) offer counseling services to more than 18,000 Hispanic students every year at fifteen regional centers, as well as more than half a million dollars in scholarships to Latino students.
“We’ve had a phenomenal success rate targeting low-income communities,” LULAC National Executive Director Brent A. Wilkes told VOXXI. “The overall dropout rate is something in the neighborhood of 40 percent. The students we serve, almost all of them graduate and 90 percent go to college so it’s a pretty phenomenal turnaround. We’re proud of that. Obviously with any programs, you have to have the parents or students to sign-up for it.”
Looking ahead to 2013, Wilkes said the oldest and largest Latino organization in the United States will be busy.
“We’re really looking at the Common Core Standards as the immediate focus because those have been adopted by 47 states, but there is a real question about whether they’re going to decimate the program,” Wilkes explained. “That’s something we’re trying to ensure, the benefits of the Common Core Standards do reach down to the school level.”
Another big project looming for LULAC involves the creation of a national Latino Collegiate Conference next fall in Washington D.C. Wilkes said the idea is to merge LULAC‘s collegiate chapters with other Latino organizations for an open dialogue about college campus issues where participants have a chance to go to the hill and advocate for their positions.
Overall, LULAC is busy with education policy, making sure the Latino voice is heard on education reform efforts, as well as on the programmatic front. The latter includes programs that target the entire spectrum of students, from elementary schools to college students nearing graduation.
“All of these are kind of designed to compliment what the schools are doing and to help motivate students to succeed within the schools,” Wilkes said. “From younger years program that teaches students that reading is fun and involves a lot of field trips to places they read about, to a middle school program that focuses on math and science, and our high school initiative focused on leadership development. It’s a pretty comprehensive suite of educational programs designed to get more Latinos to graduate from high school and go to college.”
LULAC programs are executed by its 135,000 members and 500 local councils scattered throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. Upon the recommendation of teachers and educators, students in need find their way into LULAC’s care.
For example, Wilkes said, there are currently 56 LULAC technology centers, which are walk-in venues offering after-school programs or just a safe place for kids to do homework. Naturally, funding for the educational programs plays an important role.
“We have incredible robust partnerships with companies like with Ford [Driving Dreams educational grants], Procter & Gamble does the young readers program and AT&T supports the technology centers.”
Wilkes said despite all of the inroads, obstacles remain but LULAC hopes to overcome these in the future.
“The biggest hurdle we have on education success is we want to increase educational attainment for Latino families,” Wilkes said. “A lot of the families haven’t experienced that success. Many parents are high school dropouts or they came to this country without a high school education. Some students are limited to what their parents experienced. What we’ve been doing with our programs is trying to expose those students to mentors who have been successful in terms of graduating from college, masters degrees and doctoral degrees and going on to professional careers. That’s really important, we want to open up those realms of possibilities for students.”