Education: The defining Latino issue

Editor’s Note: This paid post was created in collaboration with Latina Bloggers Connect and nuvoTV.

I first read about Sergio C. Garcia of California through an article in the Los Angeles Times. 

He’s in this country illegally but that’s neither here nor there. That’s not what makes him special though I’m sure there will be those who disagree. You’re entitled to your own opinion.
He’s special because, against all odds, attended college, graduated, and was accepted into law school.  He’s done now, waiting for the okay from governing agencies to practice in California. Sergio is waiting on a ruling from the courts to say whether’s allowed to practice law due to his legal status.
His father applied for a green card for him when Sergio was younger. That was 17 years ago.
Since then he did everything he was supposed to do. He went to school. He was a model citizen. He made his parents and a community proud. He graduated and over came every obstacle in his path. 
Despite what you may think, this is not a story about immigration or legalities or governmental red tape. This is a story about education. The importance of education especially to the Latino community. 

Education, and other important topics to the Latino community, will be discussed during a townhall meeting on nuvoTV called We Decide. They are partnering with NBC to do this. The entire show and the push to do it is an avenue for the Latino voice.  Check out and like their their Facebook by clicking here.

With another presidential election, politicos aspiring to office want to either appeal to Latino voters or appeal to the voters who believe Latinos are a problem in some way.  But the real power, and what should be the real purpose, is for Latino issues to be heard every year, not every four years. So how do we get our voices heard when it’s not election time? Now we go back to education. Read carefully because class is in session. 
The Latino poverty rate has increased from 20.6 percent in 2006 to 26.6 percent in 2010 according to the Pew Hispanic Center. There are more Latino children living in poverty than other races/ethnicities at 6.1 million. Latino adults over 20 with no high school diploma? 41 percent. 
Smart people know that these numbers are shocking considering Latinos are the fastest growing part of the American population. That means, as a nation, we are in real danger of having a generation and a populous not prepared for work. They won’t be prepared to lead. They won’t be prepared to continue this experiment we call democracy, much less participate in it. 
Texas, my home state and the place where I cut my teeth as an education reporter, knows this. They’ve known it for decades. As a result, they’ve implemented a plan for higher education called Closing The Gap. Monitored by the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board, its focus was to increase the number of Latino students in college and universities across the state. There were quotas to hit, each campus had them. Their enrollment had to have a certain number of Latino students. I worked in Corpus Christi at the time and would listen in on calls during the board’s meetings. Schools that didn’t reach their quotes were reprimanded like children. The schools in the Valley had the best opportunity and the biggest burden. Suddenly it was open season for Latinos in Texas. Every school wanted every Latino that graduated high school. Promises were made. Scholarship money thrown at them.
There was a problem that came with that line of thinking–enrolling was one thing, graduating was very different. And so the stats don’t change. They got worse. The cycle continued.
This cycle gets highlighted every four years during the election season. They speak of Latinos being the sleeping giant for voting. Each side pokes “the giant” in hopes it wakes ready to skyrocket one candidate past the other. Hope swells. Debates happen.

However, when the Wednesday morning after the election arrives and it’s business as usual. 

The cycle continues. 
But what if the cycle was broken? What if more Latinos finished college? What if they chose professions that made people take notice like, being a lawyer? What if, through education, Latinos no longer lived in poverty? What if they became the new middle class, the new definition of the American dream? 
What if we were all Sergio? 
That would mean that the “sleeping giant” would now part of the political landscape in a big way with not only place at the table of national discussion but sitting at the head of it. 
From poverty to leadership; that’s what I see when I read about Sergio. I see hope, transition, a life that his father, like mine, dreamed for his son in this country. Red tape or no, Sergio achieved more success in his life than some of his fellow classmates. 
Believe what you will about immigration, at the heart of the Latino community’s future is education. It is the great equalizer regardless of government regulations.

Don’t believe me? Ask a Dreamer

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