The Graduates/Los Graduados

“Latino youth are the fastest growing group of Americans. If we want to make sure we have an active, vibrant America, we need to make sure they graduate from high school and from college. If we don’t provide them with those resources so they can achieve that American dream, we’re not letting them down and we’re not letting down their immediate community, we’re actually letting all of us as Americans down and we’re not capitalizing on what are possibility is with making sure that they are educated.”

– Maria Teresa Kumar, CEO/President, Voto Latino from “The Graduates,” 2013

The Good News…

The four-year graduation rate for all students in the United States, including Hispanic students, has steadily increased over the last few decades, reaching its highest point since the 1970s. In the 2009-2010 school year, 78% of students graduated on time with their class, and the graduation rate for Hispanic youth was 71%, up 9 percentage points since 2007. Status dropout rates, or the number of 16-24 year olds not attending school and who do not have a diploma, are also improving. Between 1990 and 2011, the status dropout rate declined from 12% to 7% for all youth, and from 32% to 14% for Hispanic youth.

The Bad News…

A disparity between the percentage of Hispanic students and white, non-Hispanic students graduating from high school in four years remains. The graduation rate for White youth in 2009-2010 was 83% compared to 71% for Hispanic Youth. There is also a disparity in status dropout rates – 5% for White youth compared to 14% for Hispanic youth in 2011 (statistics from Snyder & Dillow, 2012).

Obviously, graduation rates for youth in general and for Hispanic youth in particular is an issue that needs to continue to be addressed. But these statistics also reflect that some of what is being done across the country to support students in moving toward a high school diploma is working!

The Film

The Graduates/Los Graduatos Film CoverIn his new two-part film, “The Graduates,” Bernando Ruiz introduces us to 6 Latino youth, 3 girls and 3 boys, and through their stories lends insight into some of the critical elements in supporting the educational success of Hispanic youth.

Two such insights that really stood out to me in this film and reaffirmed the need for a program like Check & Connect were:

  • Each of the students featured in the film had a parent or parents who cared about them and their education. While these parents might not have been involved in the school in traditional ways (attending school events, volunteering, etc.) or able to support students directly with homework or navigating the school system, it was apparent that each valued education and communicated that to their children. They held high expectations for their children, and that motivational home support for education likely contributed to the students earning their diplomas.
  • The students all benefitted from having other caring, supportive adults in their lives who could help them navigate the school system, who held them to high expectations, and who helped them find the resources to meet those expectations. These adults were connected to the youth through school, community, and social service programs.

Check & Connect’s Approach

In Check & Connect, students are connected to caring adults who serve as their mentor, role model, guide and navigator, supporter, encourager, and resource broker. Check & Connect mentors also draw on the strengths of the family and help bridge the school and family. For our families who are not seen by the school as being engaged in their children’s education because they are not engaged in the life of the school in the traditional ways, mentors recognize the ways that these families are involved in their children’s education and acknowledge them for their strengths and positive involvement. They reach out to families, ask about their goals and hopes for their children, share information with them, and help them to navigate the school system.

In short, Check & Connect is a program that can work to help close that gap in graduation rates for Hispanic youth and help to move all youth toward high school graduation and preparing for life after high school.

I encourage you to watch the film on at the following links and then post your thoughts below.

Photo of 3 Latino women featured in Los Graduados
The Girls –

Photo of 3 Latino boys featured in Los Graduados
The Boys –


Snyder, T. D., & Dillow, S. A. (2012). Digest of Education Statistics 2011 (NCES 2012-001). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

About the Author: Angie Pohl, Ph.D. provides training nationally and internationally on Check & Connect, serves as an investigator on several Check & Connect research projects currently underway, and is one of the authors of the 2012 Check & Connect manual, “Implementing with Fidelity”.

© 2013 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

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