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Guest Voz: One Latina high school dropout declares, “I am one of the Lucky Ones.”

LatinaLista — This week, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) joined together to release a new study about the Latina dropout crisis.

Listening to Latinas: Barriers to High School Graduation examines the complex reasons that prevent 41% of Latina students from graduating high school.
Of those who do not graduate, their futures are at risk for: a teenage pregnancy or multiple pregnancies before the age of 20, a career of dead-end jobs, being a welfare recipient, a drug addict or locked up for criminal activity.
The report documents the reasons why these young Latinas who don’t graduate are particularly vulnerable, but it doesn’t stop there. The NWLC and MALDEF provide resources for schools to help them graduate more Latinas and provide concrete recommendations to state, local and federal policymakers on how to reverse this disturbing trend through passage of necessary legislation.
There is also a link for readers to get involved and see how they can support Latina students.

Lucy Flores
The girls who find themselves on a destructive path but can maneuver past the challenges are the lucky ones.
Lucy Flores was one of these girls.
Lucy shares with readers her personal story and what she’s doing today to help more girls, who are growing up like she did, have a tomorrow of which they cannot only be proud but can dream of.

By Lucy Flores
My name is Lucy Flores. I’m a first-generation Mexican American and the youngest girl of 13 siblings. Growing up, I didn’t think I had much to strive for.
My mom left home when I was nine, and my father worked day and night to feed and clothe us. I had no positive role models and no support system in place.
I started ditching school. Committing petty larceny. Running away from home. Finally dropping out of school. And when I did, no one even bothered to call and find out if I was coming back.
They thought I was just another stereotype — just “another Latina” in a low-income school. A statistic. One of the 41 percent of Latina students who do not graduate with their class in four years — if they graduate at all.

Latina girls deserve more from our schools. That’s why I’m partnering with the National Women’s Law Center to help fight the Latina dropout crisis.
The Center’s ground-breaking new report, produced with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund – Listening to Latinas: Barriers to High School Graduation, shines a light on the dropout problem and shows how we can solve it.
The Center’s research shows that there is much that policymakers and schools can do to help Latinas, such as connecting students with role models, offering comprehensive sex education, and undertaking initiatives to get students ready for college.
Our goal is to make sure thousands of educators and policymakers across the country help Latina students by incorporating the recommendations in our report.
Today, I’m one of the lucky ones. I was fortunate to have had a few people intervene and encourage me. I realized that I was capable of more.
I got my G.E.D. and attended college. Now I’m a third-year law student, and I’m running for the state assembly in Nevada.
But it shouldn’t just be about luck. Your involvement makes a difference. Help Latina students stay in school by signing the pledge of support and taking action today. The pledge:
I support Latina students and believe that our country should do everything possible to help these young women achieve their dreams.
I will educate myself and others about the challenges facing Latinas and what can be done to support Latina students.
I will share Listening to Latinas with educators and policy makers in my community.

We have to do better. We can do better.

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  • Tara
    August 31, 2009 at 1:40 am

    Congratulations on beating the odds. However, I must challenge you on the mentality that you seem to share with may other latinos and latinas in the US: that it is entirely up to the school, the teachers to teach you about sex education, drugs, etc. I disagree. It is the family’s, the parent’s responsibility. We hear a great deal about the power and value of extended families in Mexican culture, for e.g. but they don’t seem to have a very beneficial effect on their daughters. I live in a city where I see hundreds of latinas of all ages, many young, happily pushing baby strollers around with toddlers around their legs. Their men are presumably working, but why don’t these women seem to have more ambition than raising large families? Your community must look at itself in the mirror before you try and blame or shame others.

  • Tara
    August 31, 2009 at 1:45 am

    …and on a purely selfish note, for me and my daughter, and her children, I don’t relish the idea of supporting endless generations of low-achievers who need, or will need tax-payer funded services in the future. Education in America is free–generations of people of all races, backgrounds and ethnicities have taken advantage of this gift–why not you and yours?

  • Benjamin
    August 31, 2009 at 5:38 am

    This sounds more like a failure of the lone parent than anything else. My father dropped out of high school to work to help his mother out and never did go any further in his education, although he was a firm believer in higher education. Mother was a housewife with a high school education. Role models are just crutches and the lack thereof is just an excuse for children who get into trouble on their own accord. The failure of Latino culture; the lack of recognition given to education as the path to success is the reason for these young women dropping out. There needs to be major introspective into how Latino culture has to adapt to change this. The Federal, state and local governments have no role.

  • Efrén Paredes, Jr.
    August 31, 2009 at 7:33 am

    Thank you for bringing attention to this very important crisis in our communidad. People who would like to contribute to helping end this crisis and help our hermanitas graduate are encouraged to join the newly created Facebook group, “I Pledge to Help Young Xicanas/Latinas Graduate.” It is a platform for like-minded people across the country to gather and share ideas, resources, and information that can be helpful. The group URL is:
    Let’s work collectively to help make a difference!

  • cookie
    August 31, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Most of the problem is with the Latino culture itself. It seems to never have evolved out of the dark ages. Add to that their Catholicism that encourges large families of which that faith seems to have never evolved out of the dark ages either and you have a double whammy for failure.
    It seems that Latino culture revolves entirely around family raising rather than education and success. Nothing wrong with being close knit families but when it chokes the life out of independant thinking and motivation which is the recipe for success then it becomes a shackle IMO.

  • Indiana Bob
    August 31, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Congrats on hanging in there!
    Linked to my name is a study by the PEW Hispanic center that breaks down by country or origin. It seems that Mexico, Guatamala, Honduras and El Salvador have higher rates compared to South America, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Seems like that would be a good place to look to see what are the differences between the low dropout and high dropout groups.
    My wife is an immigrant along with my two oldest step children. I have always worked professionally and while we aren’t rich, my wife did not have to work 40 hours a week. The result is an honor roll student who was recently chosen for the NYLC in DC, and a very good soccer player who gets good grades. I think having at least one parent in the home really helps, but that isn’t available to everyone.

  • Joany
    September 1, 2009 at 7:20 am

    Actually, Tara, she didn’t beat the odds. 59% make it through, so the odds were with her. One can only beat the odds if they are against oneself.
    A agree with Benjamin. The major cause of academic failure in school is the lack of parental discipline, and if that’s caused by a general disregard of the importance of school in Latino culture, then it’s up to Latinos to change, not necessarily the government’s need to take action. Read Bill Cosby’s book on this subject and you’ll understand his perspective on this with regard to African Americans and the need to change culture.

  • Benjamin
    September 5, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    I seem to recall that Laura made the statement that illegal aliens will teach us better nutrition. That seems to be a lie. LOL!
    A recent report by the
    From Immigration Prof blog:
    Immigrant Children and Obesity
    U.S. Department of
    “Education found that immigrant male children are more prone to obesity than the native-born. “Thirty-four percent of kindergarten-age immigrant boys are obese or overweight, compared with 25 percent of the sons of native-born Americans…By eighth grade, that number rises to 49 percent, compared with 33 percent among natives. No similar discrepancy was found among girls.”

  • Mario
    October 3, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Many have called the high school dropout rates the silent disease. Dropout rates must be lowered. It is interesting that with so much debate about education, it seems that seldom are students asked for their input. Project New School wants to change that. Project New School is inviting students to get behind the lens and make a mini-documentary about their high school. What makes their school unique? What would they change?

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