The Prepárte Conference

by Sonia Castellanos, Program Director

In May, I attended the Prepárte: Educating Latinos for the Future of America conference (http://preparate.collegeboard.org/) hosted by College Board (http://www.collegeboard.org/) in Miami, Florida. The event lasted three days and featured a variety of panels and sessions hosted by various experts in the industry, all focused around college preparedness and the college experience for Latinos. Overall, I felt this conference was extremely beneficial to me as Con Mi MADRE’s Program Director because it dealt directly with the Latino demographic, while other similar conferences are not as focused. I returned with knowledge that will help our community and program participants here in central Texas.

Several sessions were focused around the college admissions process, with topics such as the “Helping Students Get Ready for College: Resources, Access, and Equity,” “Helping Students Showcase Their Strengths to Colleges,” and “AP and Latino Student Success.” I learned about The College Board’s free SAT prep tools and resources, how to utilize them, and how to connect students and their families to them for greater success, as well as how to encourage and maintain enrollment in AP courses.

An interesting session was titled “Strengthening and Ensuring Male Latino Success in Higher Education.,” which focused on the personal stories of Latino undergraduate students and identified key elements for success in college. A 2006 report by UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center revealed that, for every 100 Latina children who begin school, 54 will graduate from high school, 11 will graduate from college, and four will pursue graduate or professional education. For Latinos, the numbers are slightly lower.

In order for Latinos, male and female, to succeed in college, they must have support from their family and community, a good understanding of financial aid and scholarships, and a strong determination to obtain a degree. This idea aligns with Con Mi MADRE’s holistic approach to college persistence, so it was very relevant to us! A similar session focused on “Cultural Relevance in the Classroom,” showcasing the importance of connecting Latino culture with a student’s school experience, and another explained how to bridge the gap between college readiness and college success through similar methods. All of these sessions match Con Mi MADRE’s mission and goals, so they were useful and informative.

Other sessions focused on various policies which would have an effect on the Latino population. One such policy is the DREAM Act, which has been passed in California and Illinois and which allows high-achieving undocumented students to be eligible for state financial assistance. In many states, an undocumented student does not qualify for in-state tuition, even if they have spent almost their entire life in the same state. Thankfully, Texas allows undocumented students to receive in-state tuition. For other states, the DREAM Act would change this policy to allow some qualified students in-state tuition. This would eliminate another hurdle in place for undocumented students wishing to earn a degree. As a current issue in the Latino community, it is important to stay informed about the DREAM Act.

For more resources for you and your family about AP classes, test preparation, financial aid, and more, check out the Prepárte website here (http://preparate.collegeboard.org/resources). Most resources are in both English and Spanish.

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