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Follow along with us: NC Community College Hispanic/Latino Initiative travels to Mexico

In the spring of 2018, the NC State Board of Community Colleges adopted a new strategic plan, Putting Education to Work: 2018-2022. The plan focuses on four goal areas: student interest and access, clear and supported pathways for student progress and success, economic and workforce impact, and system effectiveness.

Within goals for student interest and access, and clear and supported pathways, are two objectives that speak to underserved populations. An objective within the first goal states:

“Identify and reduce access barriers for all prospective students, particularly among underserved populations.” 

Within the second goal, another objective is:

“Reduce achievement gaps for underserved students.”

These two objectives are important for many reasons, and in particular, when one considers the economic mobility of underserved populations and how education is a gateway to the middle class. The role community colleges play as the primary provider of education and training to underserved populations in the state can’t be overstated.

Lorena Patterson, Director of the Hispanic/Latino Initiative, with Go Global and Jose Fabre, Wake Technical Community College Student Government president, discuss his undergraduate research project. Courtesy of Matt Meyer

One of the underserved populations in the state is the Hispanic and Latino population. According to Carolina Demography, nearly 400,000 children of Hispanic and Latinx parents are now progressing through our public school system and will soon find themselves at a point where decisions about their future will impact the rest of their lives and their economic mobility.

Currently, only 6 percent of students enrolled in the North Carolina Community College System are Hispanic and Latino. Additionally, only 16 percent of all community college completers are Hispanic and Latino. Compare these numbers to percentages of enrolled white students, 28 percent, and the percentage of white students who complete a program at 19 percent. The NC Community College System wants to see both of these numbers increase over the next four years for the Hispanic and Latinx population in North Carolina. To do this, the community colleges, in partnership with the UNC System’s Go Global group, are embarking upon the Hispanic/Latino Initiative.

The Hispanic/Latino initiative will see four NC community colleges — Wake Technical, Durham Technical, Central Carolina and Rowan-Cabarrus — partner to identify and eliminate barriers to access and entry for Hispanic and Latinx students. Furthermore, a Wake Tech student, Jose Fabre, will be conducting an undergraduate research project looking at the barriers to entry and the progression and success of Hispanic and Latino students. Results of Jose’s research will act as a foundation for the partnering colleges to develop measures or interventions to help students during their time with community colleges.

Members of an NC delegation sit with a local family in rural Mexico. Courtesy of Go Global

The NC community college team will spend the year working on the initiative. An important component of the initiative is a week-long visit to central Mexico spent touring industrial sites and education facilities. The team will also spend time with families in a rural Mexican village and see first-hand the hardships and challenges of life in rural Mexico. The recent heightened political rhetoric and misinformation about the migrant caravan making its way through Mexico will be on the minds of team members as they travel on Nov. 12 to Mexico City.

Go Global asked team members to write about their fears and pre-trip perceptions of Mexico. Undoubtedly, many of the team’s fears and perceptions will change because of the experience. The team will learn about the family-oriented, hard-working Mexican people and the Mexican workforce development and education system. The team will use the knowledge acquired during the trip to influence their work on the Hispanic/Latinx Initiative over the next year.

Follow the NC team on as they write about their experiences in Mexico beginning on Nov. 12.

Matthew Meyer

Dr. Matthew Meyer is the associate vice president of educational innovations for the N.C. Community College System.