Latino Education: The Leadership Challenge of the Next Decade

It’s common knowledge by now; the Hispanic population is rapidly increasing in the Southwest region of the United States. Within in the next decade many states will join the state of New Mexico, the first state to boast a majority Hispanic population. We are beyond counting numbers, what’s emerging before us is evident to all. The Latino population is quickly overtaking many school districts, which are inept to deal with specific issues plaguing Hispanics, especially among the children of immigrants. If our educational system is ineffective in delivering education to this group, what will happen within the next decade when the Hispanic population is projected to overtake the system? Giselle Fernandez’ recent Huffington Post article dubbed The Latino Education Imperative opens our eyes to this dilemma:

The stats say it all and cast the same frightening projection: By 2020, Latinos are expected to represent close to 25 percent of the country’s 18-to-29-year-old population. In ten years, nearly ten million Latinos will be 15 to 24 years of age, accounting for nearly a quarter of the total US college-age population.”

These facts are cause for great concern among us. So what are Latino community leaders doing about it? Facing the facts is not easy, especially for many school districts where the student population is shifting to reflect more of a diverse demographic, more so than a decade ago. What educators design and deliver within the next decade will decide America’s future for the next fifty years. So what quality of life and culture will our children inhabit? Will Latinos be an undereducated and dependent class or an enlightened and competitive one in the ever-changing global markets?

The educational system cries out for more money to improve education. This has been the cry for the past 30 years plus, and we’ve seen no national measurable results to justify more. We can no longer wait for problems to arise then counter them with ineffective measures. We must take a proactive, and at times an unpopular stance, to effect change and correct the current system. Therefore, we don’t need managers of old systems, what we desperately need is more innovative leaders to advocate, experiment and introduce new systems of learning. A starting point is drawn from California’s Monterey County whose Hispanic student population is listed at 73%, while Soledad Union School District Hispanic population lists at 94%. Most school districts similar to Monterey’s are quickly making changes to their educational delivery systems to meet this growing trend by adapting their curriculum and hiring more bi-lingual teachers to talk to and orient parents to how their child’s educational system works.

What role should Latinos and others play in our educational system? At this point a desperate one! We need to summon not just the educational leaders together but leaders from the various genres of culture. We need the faith and business communities to step up, and collaborate to create innovative strategies for new educational systems. I’ve always been an advocate for creating learning centers in faith-based organizations who employ educated staff with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Many immigrants and their children attend church faithfully each week. Why not create learning and tutoring centers at these locations? Immigrants have tremendous respect and trust in their faith leaders, and would follow their vision of education. A connection and dialogue with the faith community wouldn’t hurt education but perhaps add wisdom to the current strategy. In addition, business establishments can also add to learning by inspiring their best employees to give their time and talent to local educational centers to mentor, inspire and tutor marginal students. The business community can also create learning centers with an internship program to teach workforce principles. In my experience, Hispanics are more prone to “hands-on” learning; therefore, an interactive approach to learning can enhance their learning experience. Education in the future must seek community oriented solutions rather than the centralized-status-quo mindset that currently exists.

What are your solutions to the emerging Latino educational crises in America?


A Father’s Scrapbook of Precious Moments

Oh boy, where do I begin? What a blessing it has been to raise two wonderful daughters! The flip side is, a father must come to grips one day when he will have to release them into the hands of another man. If I was making the rules, I’d keep them the way they are but that’s not what the Designer intended. Therefore, I must suspend my desires for their destiny.

On October of 2007 I was fortunate to walk my firstborn daughter down the wedded aisle. At the age of twenty-two Ashley married a wonderful young man. I remember a few weeks prior to the event, friends would ask me – how’s the father of the bride (FOB) doing? I would simply hide my emotions, and respond, “I’m doing fine.” I was, however, an emotional mess as tears would suddenly emerge at the most random times. In one instance, three days before the grand event my younger daughter came into town, taking a short reprieve from college, to play a key part in her sister’s bridal party. During a memorable evening with the family my two daughters’ joined in a spontaneous dance in the middle of the living room; tears immediately streamed down my cheeks, as I reflected upon what seemed to be such a short time ago, as children, they danced and played in the same place. Letting go is not easy but it’s part of life’s transitions.

As soon as I got over this one, another fine young man entered the picture. He dated my youngest daughter for awhile. In June 2010, he took me out to breakfast and asked for my daughter’s hand in marriage. In August 2010, he took her to the top of the Grand Canyon to propose to her. The photographer he secretly invited took an amazing picture in real time. It was certainly a “Kodak” moment.

Now, as my younger daughter’s wedding day approaches this Saturday, March 12th 2011, I have been experiencing a broad range of mixed emotions once again, from grief to great joy. There is something that goes through a father’s mind and soul, as he prepares to give the most precious thing in his life away to another man. I don’t know about other fathers, for me it has been an emotional rollercoaster in both cases. In this second go around, I begin to cry while watching a movie where two people are falling in love or when random thoughts enter my mind about the wedding day. I can’t help it, I’m like a leaky water faucet and require an “emotional plumber” to fix the constant dripping.

Having daughters equates to having weddings, and shedding many tears alone just before the “father-daughter walk” down the aisle. If only a father had someone to talk to… somewhere to vent. Life isn’t fair or is it? Don’t misinterpret me! A father shares in his daughter’s joy but his experience is much different. It’s probably the process of release and change that is difficult to grasp, even if it’s good change.

As I prepare myself for my second and last walk down the aisle, I can’t help but to embrace a proud moment and a new son; to create a wonderful memory with my daughter, and enjoy a unique gift to fathers from the Creator’s hand.

The aftermath (written Tuesday, March 15th, 3 days after the grand event):

Well, the day has come and gone but not my tears… All I can say is that I’m blessed beyond measure. My wife and I have been given the privilege of raising and preparing two wonderful daughters for life and marriage. I’m so glad they choose to marry men instead of boys; godly men who will love them, take care of them and treat them as I did or even better. I’m so proud of them. In the meantime, I will continue praying for their success and happiness.

As a father, can you share your experience with our reading audience?