Latinos In Action: Building College and Career Skills Through Leadership

Posted October 18, 2019
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Latinos in Action prepares students for graduation and opportunity.

Per­son­al assets, excel­lence in edu­ca­tion, ser­vice and lead­er­ship. These are the four pil­lars of Lati­nos In Action (LIA), an orga­ni­za­tion work­ing to posi­tion Lati­no stu­dents in the Unit­ed States for grad­u­a­tion and oppor­tu­ni­ty. LIA reach­es more than 8,000 stu­dents through a year­long elec­tive course offered at mid­dle, junior high and high schools. The orga­ni­za­tion is dri­ven by one pur­pose: empow­er­ing Lati­no youth to lead and strength­en their com­mu­ni­ties through col­lege and career readiness.

LIA is one of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Expand­ing Evi­dence grantees, orga­ni­za­tions ded­i­cat­ed to peo­ple of col­or that are being equipped with tools to build evi­dence of their effec­tive­ness. Since receiv­ing fund­ing and tech­ni­cal assis­tance from Casey in 2016, LIA has strength­ened its pro­gram fideli­ty, assess­ment mea­sures and per­for­mance management.

This is one of very few pro­grams devel­oped for peo­ple of col­or by peo­ple of col­or, and that’s part of what makes it so pow­er­ful,” says Ayo Atter­ber­ry, senior asso­ciate at Casey and man­ag­er of the LIA grant. LIA brings Lati­no stu­dents togeth­er, and it helps them over­come a sys­tem that bogs them down.”

LIA start­ed in 2001 at a school in Utah. By the fall of 2020, LIA will reach 241 schools across 13 states. Casey gave us the dis­ci­pline we need­ed to focus on the most impor­tant aspects of our mis­sion and do them real­ly well,” says Jose Enriquez, founder and CEO of LIA.

Devel­op­ing an evi­dence-based curriculum

The LIA course is found­ed on three core components:

  • Col­lege and career readi­ness, prepar­ing stu­dents for post­sec­ondary edu­ca­tion and careers with clear action steps and rel­e­vance to their cul­tur­al background.
  • Lead­er­ship devel­op­ment, offer­ing real-life lead­er­ship expe­ri­ences to help stu­dents gain the skills they need to excel.
  • Lit­er­a­cy tutor­ing, match­ing stu­dents with ele­men­tary school­ers to men­tor and tutor, dou­bling the program’s reach.

Estab­lish­ing the tools and mea­sures of change

Casey’s tech­ni­cal assis­tance has helped cre­ate tools to mea­sure how well pro­gram staff are com­mu­ni­cat­ing what LIA calls its four essen­tials,” says Richard Thomas, chief aca­d­e­m­ic offi­cer of LIA. With those tools, LIA now has a sys­tem in place to eval­u­ate and improve pro­gram effi­ca­cy at the teacher lev­el — and pre­pare stu­dents for future success.”

Using pre- and post-pro­gram stu­dent sur­veys, LIA iden­ti­fies gains in stu­dent lead­er­ship skills, self-worth and con­nect­ed­ness” to their teach­ers and schools. Improve­ment was par­tic­u­lar­ly evi­dent for par­tic­i­pants in LIA’s annu­al Youth Lead­er­ship Boot Camp. When rat­ing their con­fi­dence lev­els for lead­ing in their class­es, schools and com­mu­ni­ties, the aver­age score rose from 3.8 (aver­age con­fi­dence lev­el) to 4.3 (strong con­fi­dence lev­el). Nine­ty-sev­en per­cent report­ed that the camp’s work­shops were mod­er­ate­ly or very influ­en­tial on their knowl­edge and skills of spe­cif­ic lead­er­ship qual­i­ties. When asked if LIA should con­tin­ue the camp, 100% respond­ed yes — indi­cat­ing a strong pro­gram and val­i­da­tion to expand.

Build­ing struc­tures and nar­ra­tives of success

LIA prac­tices an asset-based approach that rec­og­nizes strengths rather than short­com­ings. We teach Lati­no stu­dents com­ing into the class­room that they bring cul­tur­al and lin­guis­tic val­ues and assets with them, and we let them know that we need them in our schools,” says Thomas.

Nine­ty-eight per­cent of LIA stu­dents grad­u­ate from the pro­gram. Many go on to suc­cess­ful­ly com­plete post­sec­ondary edu­ca­tion and earn wages high­er than the nation­al aver­age. Casey has giv­en us a struc­ture that we can use to artic­u­late the val­ue of our pro­gram,” says Thomas. A strong vocab­u­lary and dataset pro­vides LIA lead­er­ship with the tools they need to tell their sto­ry — and reach more Lati­no students.

Learn more about Expand­ing Evidence

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