by Maitri Pamo
Humans, for the most part, are social creatures. We seek connections with others in order to function happily and productively in society. Disconnection from others in our community and from the larger society can cause a variety of obstacles not only for the individual, but also for the community itself. As our numbers continue to grow within the U.S. population, it is important for every Latino individual to engage and interact in order to help our people prosper within our country.
Several articles have been written concerning the pivotal role that education plays in advancing our Latino community. Recently, the Escalera Program of the National Council of La Raza, published a report, Positive Development Strategies for Disconnected Latino Youth, that addresses many of the obstacles faced by Latino youth. While reading the report, I was struck by the section that discusses reconnection strategies to bring these individuals back into a mental framework that will aid them to reach their full potential.
For a young person who may face challenges posed by an unstable home life, obstacles presented by an unsuccessful school experience can contribute to poor self esteem and disconnection, both of which will limit their success in life. Such individuals may sometimes feel an inward push to “reconnect” and the report details such inciting events as witnessing the academic success of their peers, lack of job preparation and skills and childbirth as some of the reasons that individuals might seek to re-engage with a productive community. The Escalera Program seeks to support these young people, taking into account their individual circumstances and tailoring solutions to help them stay on track to succeed.
One of the most influential aspects of Escalera’s involvement is the role model presentation. Having direct access to an individual who has overcome similar challenges to succeed, is invaluable to a struggling young adult. Beyond that important connection, Escalera provides a safe, open environment for the individual to not feel disadvantaged because their peers appear more successful; being among other young people facing similar problems leads to the formation of a supportive community.
Addressing the tangible difficulties of continuing an education while providing real world training, Escalera has partnered with the Casa Verde Builder’s program to allow youth to study in preparation for their GED certification for half the day while receiving green jobs training for the second half of the day. Stipends for their work help keep students motivated. Other partnerships with AltaMed and HELP aid youth with unstable housing and employment needs to stabilize those aspects of their lives.
This comprehensive approach is crucial to support our youth on their road to reconnection and success. This model can serve as an important template for other programs seeking to reach out to our most important resource: our Latino future.
Staff writer, Maitri Pamo.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of
the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.