• by Pam McCollum, Ph.D., and Rosana G. Rodríguez, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • November – December 2002 • Rosana RodriguezPam McCollum

Rather than using the traditional “one size fits all” approach to solving educational problems, community-based partnerships in several U.S. cities are identifying problems in the local educational pipeline and are collaboratively working to resolve them. These communities are part of ENLACE, an innovative national initiative funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The ENLACE initiative is working to increase the number of Latino college graduates by strengthening supports for Latino students at key transition points in the kindergarten through grade 16 (K-16) educational pipeline. The acronym ENLACE stands for “ENgaging LAtino Communities for Education” and also means to weave or link. The premise of the initiative is that by linking community resources to schools through partnerships of colleges and universities, kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) schools, and communities, a blanket of support can be woven to support student success.

The ENLACE initiative is comprised of 13 partnerships located in seven states with significant Latino populations – Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, and Texas. In the spring of 2001 partnerships received grants ranging from $1.3 million to $2 million to implement plans designed to promote Latino student success in their particular locality.

The plans and specific strategies for improving the graduation rate of Latino students in ENLACE partnerships are as varied as their communities. For that reason, they offer the promise of uncovering extremely innovative and effective approaches to improving education for a segment of the population that is projected to comprise 20 percent of the nation’s workforce by 2020.

Innovative Strategies to Support Latino Students

The ENLACE project at the University of South Florida, Tampa has a partnership with Hillsborough Community College, the School District of Hillsborough Council, and the Hispanic Services Council. You might say they are “takin’ it to the streets” with the ENLACE Education Express, a converted bus with a conference room and computer stations. Bilingual teachers and counselors distribute free materials on educational opportunities to students and their families and assist them in applying to college and for financial aid.

The ENLACE Education Express goes to venues where parents are in the community, such as at sporting events or meetings, instead of the more traditional method of inviting families to schools where they may not feel comfortable and may be reluctant to attend.

The Chicago ENLACE Partnership, headed by Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), focuses on strengthening two transition points in the educational pipeline: high school to college and two-year to four-year colleges. NEIU has instituted a dual admissions agreement with two-year institutions that provides students with simultaneous admission to NEIU and the assignment of an academic advisor who helps students develop an intended plan of study.

Chicago ENLACE also has implemented a series of charlas [talks] that engage students’ families in dialogues about higher education. The goal of these dialogues is to make college graduation a shared vision of the family, not just the student. They also help families of students who are the first in their family to attend college to have realistic expectations about the demands college places on students and what is required to succeed.

The critical shortage of Latino faculty in institutions of higher education to provide role models for Latino students is addressed by the ENLACE Fellows Initiative in Chicago ENLACE. Twenty students will earn master’s degrees in educational leadership and will be prepared to assume roles as faculty, counselors, and administrators.

As part of the initiative, students have the opportunity to intern at NEIU or one of the six colleges that are in the partnership. The experience helps them gain the knowledge and leadership skills necessary to become part of a new generation of leaders in higher education or community service.

The Metro Phoenix ENLACE, headed by Arizona State University, is supporting student success for middle school students by strengthening student leadership. It has successfully introduced the IDRA Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program, a cross-age tutoring dropout prevention program developed by IDRA, at two elementary and middle schools in Phoenix and Tempe.

The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program takes middle school students who are considered at risk of dropping out of school and places them as tutors of elementary school students. Powerful benefits accrue for both parties.

Research has shown that tutors stay in school, improve their literacy and thinking skills, develop self esteem, feel they belong in school, and improve class attendance (Cárdenas, Montecel, Supik, and Harris, 1992). The younger students who receive tutoring experience learning in a comfortable and non-threatening climate and often develop strong bonds with their tutors (visit www.idra.org for more information).

In New Mexico, a partnership of the state’s three largest communities sponsored “ENLACE Day” at the state capitol where students, parents and educators spoke to legislators about their partnership’s goals and activities to reduce the gap in Latino graduation from college within their state.

Similarly, the three Texas ENLACE partnerships have formed a coalition, sponsored in part by the Houston Endowment Inc., to craft a statewide agenda to improve the educational pipeline for Latino students.

A Fresh Approach to Educational Change

The goal of the ENLACE initiative is to bring about change in the K-16 educational pipeline that will increase Latino students’ access, retention, and graduation from college. ENLACE projects are based on effective partnerships that engage communities to collaboratively plan and design mutually beneficial programs.

The innovations shared by projects nationwide at the ENLACE networking conference in April in Chicago, some of which were reported here, represent a fresh approach to educational change. This both acknowledges and values community knowledge and engages the community to define the barriers that impede attainment of a college degree and help in finding appropriate solutions for their community. Keep your eye on ENLACE. It holds great promise.

ENLACE Partnerships

Arizona State University
Santa Ana College
University of California – Santa Barbara
Florida International University
University of South Florida
Northeastern Illinois University
New Mexico
New Mexico State University
Santa Fe Community College
University of New Mexico
New York
Lehman College – City University
of New York
Saint Edward’s University
Southwest Texas State University
University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College


Cárdenas, J. A., and M.R. Montecel, J.D. Supik, R.J. Harris. “The Coca-Cola Valued Youth Program: Dropout Prevention Strategies for At-Risk Students,” Texas Researcher (Austin, Texas: Texas Center for Education Research, Winter 1992).

Pam McCollum, Ph.D., is a senior education associate in the IDRA Division of Professional Development. Rosana G. Rodríguez, Ph.D., is the director of the IDRA Division of Community and Public Engagement. Comments and questions may be directed to them via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2002, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the November – December 2002 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]