Juntos: Together for a Better Education aims to encourage Latino high school students in Iowa to pursue higher education. More than 250 families have worked with the program.
Juntos encourages Latino families to consider college
Iowa State University is encouraging a growing number of Latino students to pursue higher education.
Juntos: Together for a Better Education is an ISU Extension and Outreach effort in eight communities across Iowa. More than 250 families have participated in the program since it began early last year and plans for expansion are underway.
“The focus of the program is to help Latino youth succeed in high school and then to look at college as an option,” said Kimberly Greder, an associate professor in human development and family studies, and specialist in Human Sciences Extension and Outreach. “To do this, we link youth and parents together. Parents have a lot of influence in helping shape the education of their children.”
The six-week program aims to help new Iowa families while the students are in in eighth grade, but is open to older students as well. It includes learning and social skill building with a family-focused approach.
Preparing for college
Greder said the program shows students and parents what steps need to be taken to prepare for college.
“The impact really is in the families we are reaching and what they’re telling us,” she said. “The parents are saying that they’re learning things they never knew before, such as what sort of classes their kids need to take in high school to be able to consider college.”
Himar Hernandez, associate director of community and economic development for ISU Extension and Outreach, has facilitated the program three times since its inception. He said Juntos impacts communities involved.
“It closes a huge gap that exists between new Iowans and higher education,” Hernandez said. “It breaks down cultural barriers for family members to understand and support higher education for their children.”
Juntos helps families in eight Iowa communities — Des Moines, Muscatine, Council Bluffs, Ottumwa, Waterloo, Perry, Mt. Pleasant, and Columbus Junction. Hernandez predicts that the program will continue to grow rapidly. Plans underway will expand the program to Denison, Storm Lake, Sioux City, West Liberty, Hampton, and Clarion.
“I think there is a huge opportunity to get Juntos into other new Iowans besides the Latino population,” Hernandez said.
Building a team
As part of the program’s growth, 16 people were trained this spring to become facilitators who will implement Juntos in their communities. The program now has 56 facilitators who work to build a team within the community, including teachers and counselors from local schools. This provides an opportunity for families and schools to build stronger relationships.
“[Parents] are increasing their ability to be able to make connections with teachers and principals,” Greder said. “It really is a strong team effort. We want to maintain a relationship with the family.”
Iowa State follows-up with participants of the program. Families are brought back together a few months after the six-week program for a “booster session” — a refresher to help answer additional questions.
Greder said the program has grown through word-of-mouth among the families involved.
“When the people you reach think they benefited, they want to share,” Greder said. “Sometimes the most successful programs happen when your audience recruits for you.”
Kim Greder, associate professor, Department of Human Development and Family Studies; specialist, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach; Iowa State University, 515-294-5906, firstname.lastname@example.org
Himar Hernandez, associate director of economic development, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, 641-682-5491, email@example.com
Matthew Leimkuehler, graduate assistant, College of Human Sciences, Iowa State University, 515-294-9424, firstname.lastname@example.org
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