Dawson said students become disengaged in large settings, are unmotivated by lack of attention, and drop out of college and universities, if they even make it to high school graduation.
Justin Bibb - Special Assistant for Education & Economic Development: Office of the Cuyahoga County Executive shared sobering statistics about high school graduation rate that hover in 40 percent for all students and fall to 30 percent of Latino student. “Our goal is to create the right conditions for schools and communities,” he said.
Citing national statistics Bibb said the gap in Latino student achievement is 21 percent, in Cleveland it is 40 percent; “This is equivalent to a permanent economic recession.” Cuyahoga County also ranks poorly in comparison to neighboring counties, with only 27 percent of the population holding a bachelors degree compared to 35 percent in Franklin County. For the city of Cleveland, the number drops to only 8 percent.
Bibb said these statistics are a serious blow to the city and county as it moves forward in hopes of the great economic renaissance through revitalization of downtown and the Medical Mart. “We will not be successful unless we bridge the gap ( in education),” he said.
Victor Ruiz, Executive Director at Esperanza, said the ‘quiet crisis’ in Latino education has long- term consequences for the region as it continuously loses population. He said the Cleveland workforce depends on home-grown talent and by 2018 sixty percent of jobs will require a post secondary education.
He said students at Esperanza Inc. have high aspirations; they want to attend college and make a difference in their lives and community. They are seeking tutors and mentors to overcome barriers but are struggling with math, science, and reading comprehensions, scoring well below their grade levels. A recent study of Latino students attending local Cleveland post-secondary institutions shows the graduation rate ranges between 0 – 42 percent.
“I want people to be upset about this and propelled to make a difference,” he said. Ruiz said the commitment to education must reach beyond W.25th and Clark Ave.
Bibb said the county is seeking real practical solutions, and has allocated $6 million in college assistance but unless the student successfully completes matriculation there is little impact.
Dawson said she was surprised to learn from Ruiz that the biggest barrier to Latino education is the breakdown of the family. To counter that, Remington encourages families to participate and enroll together. “It is not unusual to see family members taking classes and graduating together,” she said.
She said in encouraging more students to graduate high school and attend post-secondary institutions the key to keep in mind is the same shoe does not fit all. Students have options not just in their pursuit of careers but the environment as well. “When we [at Remington College] see a student slipping all of us come together to help,” she said.
For Remington College students, the one-on-one attention they receive through their coursework makes all the difference. Jonathan Pérez completed his Dental Assisting program at the college and is continuing his bachelor’s in biology at a local university. He said the challenges he faced in high school were discrimination and the attitude from teachers that he would not succeed. “That just motivated me to prove them wrong,” he said. As a dental assistant he has been encouraged by the doctors he works for to pursue a higher degree so he can move up in the field. “If they believe in me, then I can do it,” he said.
For Melanie Rodríguez, walking into a class and having an instructor who knows her by name and her goals are important. She wanted a program that was fast-paced that would help launch her career quickly so she could provide for her 2-year-old daughter.
She said as a Spanish speaker she processed everything in Spanish and was often overlooked by teachers—“One even told me this is your education and not mine.” Rodríguez said teachers have the power to make a huge impact on students. “I like that my program is very hands on,” she said.
Luis Santiago, also enrolled at Remington, said if teachers had just paid a little more attention he would have been motivated to stay in school. He has completed his GED at Remington and is pursuing Medical Assisting. “When you see a student’s grades slipping, it is time to ask me to see you after class and have a talk. A counselor should be on top of every student’s list of people to talk to when there is a problem,” he said.
Dawson said currently 8 percent of the students at Remington are Latino and the college is partnering with Esperanza, Inc. to support the organization’s efforts.
Remington is a career college that offers diploma programs and Associate Degree Programs, a few online Bachelor Degree Programs. For more information visit: www.remingtoncollege.edu