• by Leticia Rodríguez, Ed.M. • IDRA Newsletter • April 2009
By the year 2050, the Hispanic population will triple to 133 million from 47 million. Already the largest minority group, Hispanics will more than double their share of the U.S. population to 29 percent. The Tomás Rivera Policy Institute reports that Latino children now comprise a majority or near majority of first graders in nine of the nation’s largest cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, San Jose and Dallas) (2009).
Nationally, children in low-income families are 32 percent less likely to attend college than those in families with higher incomes. Even though minorities constitute an increasing proportion of college students, they are still underrepresented in postsecondary education.
IDRA is focusing on improving college attendance for this burgeoning young Hispanic population by establishing the latest technology in community centers. These TECNO (Technology Enhanced Community Neighborhood Organization) digitally-based centers were designed to provide personalized online college planning after school hours in each center’s computer rooms.
The goal of the project is to provide direct support services and information about college access and success through the use of technology to 600 low-income 11th– and 12th-grade Hispanic and other minority students and their families within the Edgewood community, a high-need area of San Antonio. The project works with participating schools, teachers, students and their families through four community-based centers: Benitia Family Center, Westside YMCA, YWCA and Edgewood Family Network.
Relying on best practices and national research for using current technology for college access, TECNO is being supported by JP Morgan Chase and TG (Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation). TG is a public non-profit corporation that helps create access to higher education for millions of families and students through its role as an administrator of the Federal Family Education Loan Program.
Since each community project is unique in its use of processes, practices and challenges, TECNO is applying three key actions: diligent scope planning and implementation, communication, and building and sustaining community relationships. The best practices from applying these principles are the focus of discussion here.
Planning and Implementation
Do lots of groundwork. Organize a SWOT (strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats) session with a cross section of people from within your organization. This process will help you identify the internal and external factors that can facilitate or impede the project timeline and outcomes.
Understand how to plan with the different types of team stakeholders. Look for feedback beyond the users and developers of the project. Conduct a wide sweep for people whose knowledge and expertise contribute to the project’s success. The inner working group needs to have knowledge and information possessed by stakeholders in the outer circles.
Be adaptable. Even with bucket loads of groundwork, stuff happens! In our case, one center director retired during the second-inning of the project implementation. Another center started building renovations sooner than expected, with the computer center scheduled for the first round of renovations. Adaptability was the theme of the week in these situations.
Structure communication. Continually communicate progress, challenges and future actions and events with all stakeholders. Schedule regular meetings with project staff, center directors and other key stakeholders. Follow-up with reports to make certain actions items are happening as planned. Regular communication and collaboration with the technology centers, schools, colleges and other college access groups is enabling TECNO to recruit more students to the centers and provide the students with the most current information and resources from various sectors.
Building and Sustaining Community Relationships
IDRA’s Dr. Rosana Rodríguez and Dr. Abelardo Villarreal have written about this point clearly: “Creating a partnership relationship requires a paradigm shift. The at-promise way of thinking pursues values and unconditionally integrates the “soul” of the community into the educational process. Recognizing communities as at-promise rather than at-risk means capitalizing on the community’s assets, pointing to possibilities rather than stressing dysfunctionality, and turning away from limiting labels and diagnostic approaches. This fundamental shift implies greater engagement of communities at all points of the educational pipeline.” (2000)
Research tells us that, particularly among Hispanic students, the involvement of parents is especially important for students attending and staying in college. TECNO has a strong parent engagement component. For example, phone calls and meetings with students typically include input from at least one parent.
Also, beyond the vast resources for students, the new TECNO web site has a section for parents in English and Spanish. As a result of the downturn in the economy, there have been more and more adults visiting the centers seeking a GED, new job training and college-going information. With this new group warmly welcomed to the centers, the center staff adapted their college advising talents to serve this new population.
With these best practices and lessons learned fresh in our minds, IDRA will continue to plan, communicate, adapt and most importantly listen to the students and community to improve their college-going opportunities. However, our most important work will be keeping up and changing with their needs and the latest technology to help them go from college-bound to college graduate.
Did you know?
Almost one in four children under age 5 in the United States is Hispanic, but only about 11 percent of all college students are Hispanic.
Of the Latino students who start college, about half earn a degree.
Only 3 percent of all doctorates are awarded to Latinos.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2007
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Unified Process Practices Guide: Project Scope Planning (Atlanta, Ga.: CDC, December 31 2007).
Krywosa, J. Achieving College Access Goals: The Relevance of New Media in Reaching First-Generation and Low-Income Teens (Washington, D.C.: Pathways to College Network, 2008).
Noel-Levitz. African American Students and the Web – The E-Expectations of College-Bound African American High School Seniors (Iowa City, Iowa: Noel-Levitz, 2006).
Noel-Levitz. Hispanic Students and the Web – The E-Expectations of College-Bound Hispanic High School Students (Iowa City, Iowa: Noel-Levitz, 2006).
Robertson, S. Project Sociology: Identifying and Involving the Stakeholders (New York, N.Y.: The Atlantic Systems Guild Ltd, 2000).
Rodríguez, R., and A. Villarreal. “Development Through Engagement: Valuing the ‘At-Promise’ Community,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, August 2000).
Tomás Rivera Policy Institute. “Majority/Near-Majority of First Graders in Top Ten U.S. Cities are Latino: The Coming Latino Demographic Revolution in Our Nation’s Largest Urban School Districts Implications for the Future,” news release (Los Angeles, Calif.: TRPI, March 5 2009).
Leticia Rodríguez Ed.M., is an IDRA education associate. Comments and questions may be directed to her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2009, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the April 2009 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.]