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Latino community leaders view United Way high school dropout crisis summit as possible first step to solution


By Alan Abrams, La Prensa Senior Correspondent


Nov. 19, 2009: Although statistics show the national Latino high school dropout rate at 27.5 percent, or almost three out of every ten Latino students, educators and public officials alike agree that the numbers for Toledo may be near 42 percent or even higher.


The problem has set off calls for action from every Toledo school administrator and official – especially those who are Latino.


That’s why the United Way of Greater Toledo’s Toledo Dropout Prevention Summit of Nov. 19 was widely anticipated by Latinos.

Ramón Pérez

According to the publicity handout for the summit, “parents, students, educators, business leaders, juvenile justice, nonprofits, and religious organizations will convene for a day-long education summit to increase awareness, encourage collaboration, and facilitate action to improve graduation rates.”


However, a United Way spokesperson said none of the agency’s numerous Latino employees, or, for example, Josh Flores, Mary Morales, and Robert García of Waite High School, or Alberto Flores of Libbey High School; or Emilio Ramírez (Principal of Woodward High School), David Ibarra (Principal of Washington Junior High), and José Luna and Lonny Ramirez of TPS, were asked to speak or be part of the panels.


Luna, Ramírez, Ibarra, and TPS president Bob Vásquez were among the Latino educators and officials who did attended the summit.


The aforementioned teachers apparently were unable to get time off from their respective schools to participate.


According to a spokesperson for United Way, two well-known Toledo Latino community activists —Sonia Troche, executive director of Adelante, Inc., and Ramón Pérez—were among a contingent of local Latinos who attended the heavily-publicized event:


Both Troche and Pérez attended as observers for the morning session. However, neither one of these two experts on the dropout crisis were on the dais as speakers. Both participated in the afternoon breakout workshops.


Troche and Pérez say there was a smattering of Latinos on the panel of students, and both praised them for doing a good job of making their case.


Adelante’s Troche told La Prensa “I was pleased to see the emphasis at the conference that was placed upon mentoring as well as parental involvement, and those are two programs in which we have been in the forefront.”


She says she is happy to see a full court press on the dropout issue, which Latinos were among the first to recognize as a looming crisis almost 40 years ago. Now, however, Troche sees an opportunity for business leaders to step up to the plate and help make a difference.


“Over the last 25 or 30 years, many people just looked the other way instead of trying to deal with the dropout issue. That’s because if you dropped out of high school, you could usually get a factory job or an automotive industry job. You didn’t need a high school diploma for that.


“But now that’s no longer the case. The world has changed forever. I think the business leaders at the conference realized that you can’t keep looking at the dropout crisis as just a social-services issue. It has now become an economic issue,” says Troche.


Sonia Troche

And Pérez is hopeful that the summit’s steering committee will come back in December “after they’ve looked at the feedback and put an action plan together with some Latino names on it. But then it will only work if they take it to the community and the community buys into it.


“Whatever they come up with has to deal with our issues, our concerns. The residents, the parents, they all have to be part of it. And it has to be community driven, or nothing will happen, nothing will change.


“I do commend United Way. They are making a real effort,” Pérez says.


On the Internet: https://laprensatoledo.com/Stories/2009/061209/Latinos.htm







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