7 Ways to Help Hispanics Succeed Academically
The future of America depends on Hispanics’ success in education.
Your movement is no different. It is dependent upon Latinos’ success.
If students in your movement are not doing well in their studies then they will lose scholarships. When they lose scholarships they either have to get a job or drop out of school. Most choose the latter.
When you think about reaching freshmen, part of the benefit is that you will have them until they are seniors. You get four years to invest in students. But if they aren’t able to stay in school, your investment in them is cut in half. In order to maintain momentum in your movement, students have to stay in school.
This became a troubling reality in our movement. In response to the trend, we tried seven different strategies to help our students raise their GPAs. Many of the ideas we borrowed from other places, but hopefully this list will spark your creativity to attack this issue in your movement.
- The “A” Box. Each Tuesday at our weekly meeting students write their name on a piece of paper if they got an “A” on any assignment or test since the last meeting. They put it in the “A” Box and we read the list of names from up front during the announcement part of the agenda. The beauty of the “A” box is that it creates a culture where success is valued and celebrated from up front. What you celebrate will be sought after.
- An Academic Director. One of the best decisions we made in 4 years of doing Destino was to ask a student to be the Academic Director for our movement. She stepped in and came up with most of the ideas on this list. More than the practical ideas she brought, she was someone with the power and title of a director to say that academics were going to be valued and that help was available. If you don’t do anything else on this list, empower a student to own the academic success of their friends. You’ll be amazed at the results.
- Grade Reports. We’ve begun asking the leaders to turn in grade reports at various points in the semester/quarter. While we haven’t had 100% participation by all leaders (we’re working on it), it is helpful to know where they stand at crucial points (like the week before the drop deadline to help them know whether to drop a class). Overall it helps us get a picture of how the movement is doing academically.
- Mandatory Study Hall. Leaders in Destino are required to attend study hall for 2 hours each week. The academic director has a particular location and times where she is available and they come and sign in. Ironically the students who push back against this rule are often the students with the worse grades, but instead of punishing people for not coming we reward the leaders with perfect attendance at the end of the semester/quarter.
- Holistic Discipleship/Mentorship. Over the years we made a fundamental shift in the way we look at discipleship. Instead of only talking about spiritual topics, we now include academics (along with other things like finances and health). Spirituality affects all of a student, so we now strive to check in with students about their academics as part of the discipleship process. I would regularly ask, “How are your grades going?” or “What’s the worst and best grades you got this week?”
- GPR Requirement for Leaders. We instituted a 2.5 GPR requirement to be a leader in Destino. We didn’t want to be exclusionary, but we wanted to communicate that we cared more for a student and their future than we did for what they could do for Destino. We were invested in their academic success and we would do what was necessary so they could raise their grades and become a leader.
- Raising Students Expectations. We needed to be people who believed that the Hispanic students could succeed at the collegiate level. In some cases we were the only people who believed in them, not even they themselves did. So when a student shared in discipleship that they were happy that they passed a test, we pointed their eyes higher. Passing wasn’t enough. They were smart enough and gifted enough to get B’s or A’s. We didn’t let them settle, we created a culture where they strove to be the best they could be. It didn’t come out of compulsion or shame, but out of belief. And often our sparks of belief ignited a fire within them that had been aching to start for far too long.
These are practical tips that you can use in your movement to help Hispanic students succeed academically in college. We hope they are useful for you. Please don’t ignore this area of students’ lives. Invest in them, believe in them, help them, equip them.
The future of your movement depends on it.
What are you doing to help students succeed academically?
photo courtesy: marganz