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Published in Print: May 2, 2001, as Initiative Aims To Up Hispanic College-Graduation Rates

Initiative Aims To Up Hispanic College-Graduation Rates

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With the help of $21 million in grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Houston Endowment Inc., 13 communities are rolling out projects this spring to improve Hispanics' rates of entering and graduating from college.

"The ultimate goal is to create four-year college graduates," said David Cournoyer, the director of communications for the Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Mich. "But when you're targeting the K-16 pipeline, you've got to get students through high school first."

The grantmaking initiative— called "Enlace," after the Spanish word for "link"—began two years ago when the Kellogg Foundation offered planning grants. Under the program, 13 communities in seven states with large Hispanic populations will receive $1.3 million to $2 million each over four years.

All of the projects are being launched by partnerships made up of school districts, higher education institutions, and community-based nonprofit organizations. Many build on efforts already under way to increase Hispanics' interest in education.

A partnership in Santa Ana, Calif., for instance, will expand a program in the Santa Ana schools that encourages Hispanics—who constitute 92 percent of the district's students—to take 7th grade pre-algebra. The Enlace grant also will go to expand another program in the 61,200-student district that enables students to take remedial courses before graduation. The students are enrolled in the courses, which are taught by college professors, at the same time that they are enrolled in regular high school courses.

'Academic Identity'

"We're blurring the lines between high school and college so that you feel that you belong and have a sense of academic identity," said Sara Lundquist, the vice president of student services for Santa Ana College and Santa Ana's Enlace coordinator. "We're trying to make sure the students are ready—so they can be successful."

Many of the projects are led by Hispanic educators who fear Hispanic students are getting left behind compared with other ethnic or racial groups.

Hispanics "have the highest high school failure rate and the lowest high school graduation rate," said Ricardo Maestas, the chief aide to the University of New Mexico's president and the coordinator for the Enlace grant in New Mexico. "It is at a crisis stage. These [youths] are going to be our workforce for the future."

Vol. 20, Issue 33, Page 3

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