CREATING DREAMS AND MAKING THEM COME TRUE: A QUALITATIVE EXAMINATION OF A PROGRAM TO INCREASE THE ACHIEVEMENT OF UNIVERSITY DEGREES AMONG LATINO STUDENTS
Latino students in the United States are, statistically, the least likely demographic group to complete high school and go on to college. To combat the issue of Latino dropout rate, and its subsequent negative impact on educational, social, economic and public welfare, federal, state and local government agencies are attempting to address the issue by providing educational programs in order to decrease dropouts, and increase educational support in high school and in college. The Latino population is becoming the dominant population in many major cities in the United States. Therefore, if dropout rates and academic opportunity gaps are not addressed within this demographic, it is increasingly being recognized that the nation will be catastrophically affected. Although the focus of these programs is well intentioned, the majority of existing programs tend to focus on solely on preventing Latino students from dropping out of school. Few programs actually take the initiative to prepare and develop Latino students to be successful in high school or to actually graduate from college. The program studied has achieved several decades of success in equipping Latino students to graduate from college. The program recruits students during their sophomore year in high school and monitors and supports each cohort member through graduation (i.e., not just in high school, but also through college). This unique program, which is both costly and time-consuming, often requires a seven to nine year commitment. Nevertheless, this program has served as a method of salvation for many of the cohort members, especially considering the typical life alternatives to participation. The purpose of this research was to systematically examine and document the various perceptions of program participants, which include perspectives ranging from student participants to program leaders and organizers. This method of examination is utilized in order to determine which elements may be in need of revision, and to identify elements that may be replicable in other educational settings. This research contributes to the literature dealing with Latino student issues such as: decreasing dropout rate, increasing academic achievement, increasing graduation rate, increasing SAT scores, mentoring and monitoring for student success, increasing college enrollment, and increasing college graduation.