Starting Early: Combating The Rising Latino Achievement Gap
A program, funded in part by the United Way of Weld County, is helping combat the problem of low Latino graduation rates in a unique -and early- way.
A college degree is often used as a gauge of a person’s overall success as an adult. According to a recent I-News study, the college graduation rate for Latino’s living in Weld County was only 9 percent in 2010. While a number of factors contribute to this statistic, experts say proper child care could be a solution.
For many Latina women, professional child care is financially out of reach. So the majority turn to family, friends or neighbors for free to low cost early child care.
“Most of the time it’s falling on the laps of the grandparents to raise these children,” says Debi Brilla, president of the Latino Chamber of Northern Colorado. “And it’s that vicious cycle of not having the time or resources to get the help that they need.”
The acronym stands for family, friends and neighbor providers advancing school outcomes. The group teaches non-professional Latina child care providers how to prepare children in their care for kindergarten.
Through 130 hours of training over 15 months, participants learn everything from social, emotional and behavioral wellness, to early development of physical motor skills. “The focus is to close the gap in education for writing, reading, and to be successful in school,” says Janneth Attebery, program coordinator of FFN PASO. “That’s the main focus. To close the gap between non-Latino and Latino children and enter school ready to learn.”
According to the 2012 Colorado Kids Count study, only half of Latino students scored proficient in reading and just over a third were proficient in writing. Attebery says her group is unique because it works from inside the Latino community improving those numbers by training Latina child care providers in education basics.
The PASO program is intensely hands on and taught entirely in Spanish. Originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, Cecilia Carro is one of the program’s participants. She takes care of her grandson Charlie as well as four other children.
“Since I’ve arrived here, I’ve always taken care of kids. They grow up; younger ones come to take their place.”
Before entering the PASO program, Carro didn’t think about teaching her children daily routines or reading to them. But since the program, all that’s changed.
“We’ve learned a lot in the program...we do a lot more activities like write, read and make crafts.”
In addition to classroom training, the program provides 40 hours of in-home visits by mentors or ‘Tias’. Visits from the PASO Tias last about an hour and a half and make sure skills the women learn are being used correctly.
With 70 percent of Latina working mothers using family, friends, or neighbors for child care, Jeannine Truswell, president of the United Way of Weld County, says the PASO program is invaluable to young Latino children and their future. “The issue is, we’re not doing enough in this area, so we have to think differently,” says Truswell. “We have to meet families where they are, that’s the key. As agencies and organizations, we can’t expect to be sitting here and have people come to us.”
According to the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition, children who are cared for by graduates of a PASO program can expand their first language skills while developing critical cognitive and self help skills necessary for when they enter kindergarten.
Attebery says the graduates themselves also have a lot to gain. “If the woman feels good about herself, if the woman has self esteem, if the woman is striving, she’s going to want to do more for her own children, for other children. And those children are the ones that are going to be entering school prepared to close the gap that we have right now."