Montgomery Latino youth voice school, work challenges in study -- Gazette.Net


Montgomery County’s Latino youth are more likely to drop out of high school when they have lower GPAs, think their teachers don’t expect much from them and face absent parents or guardians in middle school, according to a report released Thursday.

The report — from the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region and Identity Inc. — was based on more than 900 surveys of current students, high school graduates and high school dropouts.

The report shows that many challenges have affected Latino youth, but the organizations highlighted three factors as the strongest signs a student will drop out: holding GPAs of 2.5 or lower in their last year of school, not having a parent or guardian around after school when they were in middle school, and feeling like their teachers or counselors don’t expect them to finish high school or college.

Diego Uriburu, executive director of Identity, said the study shows youth are also affected by factors outside the school system: when their families live in a single room in a house, when they study five hours or less per week and when they experience depression, among others.

At a Thursday event marking the study’s release, Maria “Majo” Jose Lizarzaburu said she decided to drop out of high school after she had fallen far behind in her classes.

Lizarzaburu — now 25, with a GED and a job — said in an interview that sometimes, for a young person, dropping out of high school can feel like “the easiest way.”

“I’m really happy that our voices are heard,” she said of the study.

To prevent Latino students from dropping out and support the county’s “disconnected” youth from ages 16 to 24 who are out of school and without work, the report outlines three recommendations.

The first recommendation calls on the school system to develop a plan, with the community, to address the reasons students drop out.

The second recommendation calls on the school system and the county to expand job-preparation opportunities for youth.

And in the third recommendation, the school system, the county and nonprofits should work together to build up the Latino community’s ability to take part in policy development. Included in the recommendation is a focus on parent involvement in their children’s education.

Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said at the Thursday event that the school system faces an achievement gap but has already taken on initiatives in line with the study’s recommendations.

“This is a systemic effort but it is also an individual effort,” he said, describing the impact each person, particularly peers, can have on students.

Montgomery County Councilwoman Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring said after the event that she sees programs already in place that, if expanded, could make a greater impact on the county’s Latino youth. She said she wants to see the study lead to action and that, for her, “the proof is going to be in the pudding.”