STEVEN JACKSON, Editor-in-Chief
Beloit College’s first-ever Latin@ Educational Issues Conference will take place this Friday, April 13. The event will begin at 6 p.m. in Moore Lounge of Pearsons Hall with the keynote address, “What are the Success Factors of Urban High Achieving Latin@ Students?” by Dr. Rene Antrop-Gonzales of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Following the keynote address, several panels and presentations will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. in the World Affairs Center.
The conference is the final project for “Identity, Education and Agency: U.S. Latin@ Issues,” a course taught by Aurora Chang, director of the McNair Scholars Program.
Now more than ever, it is important to be mindful of issues surrounding Latin@ education. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, Latin@s are the fastest-growing population group in the United States, with a 43 percent increase from 35 million to 50.5 million between 2000 and 2010. On top of that, there is a persistent and significant achievement gap between Latin@ and White students.
The Latin@ Educational Issues Conference is two-pronged, with a focus on theory and research as well as practical applications for Latin@ families.
“We will have students available to help translate if parents are interested in the research presentations, but really I think our intention was to focus the research toward the non-minority academics at Beloit,” said Ximena Mora’12, a student in the course. “Community members don’t need to be filled [in] with facts on their daily realities; they need active help and resources to change them. I believe that we will offer these things through our conference workshops.”
The presentations, panels and workshops are based on students’ individual research projects. Topics fall under several categories, from college access to policy issues to parental concerns.
“We all planned our own topic,” said Nancy Guitierrez’15, another student in the course. “Every individual had to do their own research and write a paper.”
Guitierrez researched the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act and its impact on Latin@ students in a Northern Illinois community. Her research was both hands-on and archival. She interviewed school officials and collected statistical data.
“It’s been one of the most intense projects I have worked on,” said Guitierrez. “Even as a Latina, I didn’t know how NCLB was affecting me or the community I was studying.”
Guitierrez takes this is a sign that issues surrounding ethnicity need to be talked about more. “There is a need for ethnic studies at Beloit,” she said. “It’s important that we’re not only taught American history from the American perspective, but also taught our own [Latin@] history. I feel we should all be more informed.”
Guitierrez and her classmates hope the conference will help inform both students and families on Latin@ educational issues.
“I think that Beloit likes to think we’re above discrimination and racial stereotypes in our schooling praxes,” said Mora. “But it’s always good to have events like this to challenge our preconceptions. If nothing else, I hope we can reach out to the community members and answer any questions they may have on furthering their children’s education.”
This is the very first conference of its kind at Beloit College. It may also be the last. Chang is leaving Beloit College next year for other career opportunities, and some are worried that no one will take her place, especially when it comes to providing a voice for Latin@ students.
“It’s going to be sad,” said Guitierrez. “Out of all the other professors, who’s doing an event like this? [Without Aurora], it’s going to be double or triple the work to come up with an event of this size.”