Latino youth are one of the fastest-growing segments of the population in the United States, poised to fill the workforce gap as millions of baby boomers retire over the next decade. Yet, achieving economic mobility remains out of reach for as much as 42% of Latino youth who face numerous barriers to academic and career success and are dropping out of high school at persistently high rates.
Today, NCLR (National Council of La Raza) released Plugged In: Positive Development Strategies for Disconnected Latino Youth, a report that profiles disconnected Latino youth and the programs that serve them, including NCLR’s Escalera program that helps prepare Latino high school students for college.
Disconnected youth are identified as young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are out of school with or without a high school diploma or in danger of dropping out, and are detached from the labor market and postsecondary education. Fortunately, community-based initiatives such as NCLR’s Escalera Program: Taking Steps to Success provide the necessary reinforcements to reconnect Latino youth to academic progress and economic well-being.
“Unique life circumstances such as language barriers and questionable immigration statuses are factors that play heavily in the ability of Latino youth to succeed at the rate of their counterparts,” said Delia Pompa, NCLR Senior Vice President of Programs.
The report finds that the following core competencies are central to the success of disconnected youth:
• Reconnection is a crucial first step for the majority of disconnected youth and is facilitated by positive relationships developed through case management.
• Foundational skills, or effective communication, conflict resolution, problem-solving, and critical-thinking abilities, are necessary to healthy social relationships and to the workplace.
• Leadership and personal development activities empower Latino youth to demonstrate and strengthen individual skills by setting their personal, educational, and career goals and devising a plan of action to meet them at their own pace.
• Educational attainment is an integral part of Latino youth’s success. All sites profiled for the report ensure that participants attain a GED or high school equivalency and enroll in some form of post secondary education or vocational training.
• Workforce readiness skills, which encompass workplace etiquette, responsibility, self-esteem, time management, and social networking, are essential to Latino youth’s economic mobility.
• Career exploration helps Latino youth set, prioritize, and meet their personal, educational, and career goals.
The NCLR Escalera Program: Taking Steps to Success was created in collaboration with the PepsiCo Foundation and PepsiCo, Inc. and currently operates in seven communities throughout the U.S., helping Latino youth who may need additional support to achieve academic and career success. The 15-month program offers career exploration, leadership development, personal development, and academic enrichment. Customized programs offer additional services targeting younger students, emphasize science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and focus on youth who are disconnected from school or work. The Escalera program has served approximately 1,200 Latino youth, with 92% of enrolled students completing graduating from high school and 89% enrolling in postsecondary education.