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Student Volunteer Study Illustrates How Institutionalized Discrimination Thrives in School Systems

LatinaLista — It’s a rather ironic situation:

When it comes to family and friends, the majority of Latino teens don’t think twice about lending a hand.

Yet, according to a new federal study by the Corporation for National & Community Service, if it involves doing volunteer work for a stranger, there doesn’t seem to be much interest among Latino or African American teens who are from disadvantaged backgrounds.

At first glance, this study which documents how volunteer work actually benefits students by improving their self-confidence, trust in other people, belief that they can make a difference in their communities and enables them to see a future that entails going to college, would seem that Latino teens are lazily ignoring volunteer opportunities to just hang out with their friends — and there are probably cases of that happening.

Yet, when the other characteristics of those who don’t volunteer are looked at, a disturbing picture emerges of disadvantaged Latino teens in (public) school, especially when you take into account how this study defines “disadvantaged.”

Disadvantaged is being defined as: Black or African-American, Hispanic or Latino, Born outside of the U.S.; Speaks a Language other than English at Home; Has a grade point average of B- or lower and has only one parent (if any) that attended college.

The study also breaks down the volunteer rates and shows how disadvantaged Latino teens are 39% more likely to volunteer through a church organization; 21% through school or school club; 7% through a youth civic/leadership organization and 11% through social or community service group.

These two groups of information are enlightening – not so much in explaining why Latino teens don’t volunteer but how they are excluded from it.

If a teen has a C average, speaks Spanish in the home, isn’t made to feel he’s “worthy”or “invited” to belong to a school club or leadership organization, and his parents didn’t receive anything more than their GEDs, the chances of that teen participating in a volunteer activity is practically non-existent.

And no wonder especially if that student is made to think that he/she has to be better educated, in a better economic situation and a part of an inner club circle before he/she can be an effective volunteer.

The study says there is a “class gap” when it comes to volunteering.

This gap may be indicative of how Latino kids fall through the cracks in the educational system.

The study found that when Latino and other “disadvantaged” kids were personally asked by a teacher to participate in a service project – they did. And these kids showed the same level of commitment as the other students who volunteer on a regular basis.

Also, that disadvantaged kids are 39% more likely to volunteer through their church groups says a whole lot as to where they feel connected and feel unconditionally accepted.

If ever there was proof that institutionalized discrimination exists in our school systems, this study proves it by accident.

If anything, this study shows that when any kid is asked to join in, is made to feel a part of the group and is recognized by the authority figure in charge, they will respond.

This study serves as a wake-up call to reassess how “disadvantaged” students are treated in our school systems — and in how the term is defined.

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