Hispanic Achievements Foundation
Inspiring Hispanic youths to strive for academic excellence and to serve their communities
Youths' Low Self-esteem
A research study 1/ found that "every educator who works with Latino children speaks of the problem of 'self-concept,' or self-esteem. Children who have no positive impressions about themselves will fail [in school and the workplace]." According to the same study, this creates a condition in the schools where Latino children are viewed as potential, even probable, failures. This, in turn, tends to perpetuate the negative attitude that the youngsters have about themselves; thus, increasing the odds that the educators' low expectations of them will be realized.
According to several studies 2/ and 3/ conducted in West Texas, the higher the self-esteem of Chicano youth and the stronger they identified with their ethnic group, the better was their attitude about themselves as individuals and the better were their behaviors.
Low Educational Retention
Hispanics are significantly less likely to complete high school than non-Hispanic whites. For example, a study in 2000 found that, among 16 to 18 year-olds, the high school dropout rate for Latinos was 27.8 % and 6.9 % for non-Hispanic whites. In 2001, another study found that only 63.2% of Latinos ages 25-29 had completed high school, versus 93.3% of whites in this same age group. 4/
In higher education, Latinos lag behind their non-Hispanic white and black peers. In 2000, 21.7% of Latinos ages 18 to 24 were enrolled in post-secondary, degree- granting institutions. The percentage for blacks and whites were 30.5% and 38.7%, respectively.
What accounts for this problem? Some studies have found several reasons, among them:
Perpetuating these conditions are the negative images of their people that young Latinos get from the mass media and movies. Newspapers, radio and television often run stories about Hispanics committing crimes, and movies often portray Latinos as criminals. On the other hand, there are rarely positive, inspiring stories about this ethnic group.
According to a 1996 study conducted by the Center for Media and Public Affairs for the National Council of La Raza, many more Latinos than non-Hispanic whites or blacks play criminals on prime-time television shows. 5/
In another report made public in 1996, "more than 85 percent of television network news stories about Hispanics are about crime, affirmative action, immigration or welfare." Regarding the study, The Miami Herald quoted Lisa Navarrete, of the National Council of La Raza: "The study confirms that media play a large part in perpetuating stereotypes about our community." Roberto Vizcón, news director at Telemundo's WSCV-Channel 51 in Miami, Florida, said, "Networks only cover Hispanics when some kind of negativism is involved." 6/
With all of the above, is it any surprise that many Latino youth--Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans more than other Hispanics; native-born more than foreign-born--tend to have a low regard of themselves and their people?
To understand and appreciate the affect these negative stimuli have on Hispanic-American youth, let us go through a couple of exercises and see if they accurately measure our own knowledge and impressions of Hispanics.
Excercise 1 - Knowledge of Hispanics
Please answer the following questions:
If you were unable to answer most of the questions correctly, it means that much information about Hispanics has been unavailable to you. This happens to Latino youth, too. Imagine the implications.
Exercise 2 - Impressions of Hispanics
For each person-type on the list below, indicate the ethnic or racial group that you believe best matches it (mark H for Hispanic, W for non-Hispanic White and A for African American). Also, on the third column, indicate what your impression is of each type (mark + or -).
If you placed H next to items 4, 9, 10 and 12, but none next to other items, how would you assess your overall impression of Hispanics? Many Latino youths have the same impression, for the same reason. Imagine the implications.
In general, North Americans sometimes receive negative information about other ethnic/racial groups, but usually it is offset by positive information-in contrast with Hispanics. Also, the other groups have enough visible positive role models whose influence neutralizes the affects of the negative information. African Americans, for example, have their sports heroes, television and movie celebrities and prominent political leaders, who are talked and written about in the mass media to the extent that some of them become household names for blacks and whites alike. They can be, and often are, positive inspirations for African-American youths.
But what about the positive role models for Hispanic youths? Who motivates and inspires them? The models exist, but few Latinos know about them because the models get little or no coverage in the mass media, and because there have been no concerted efforts to publicize their achievements. Who are the heroes of the Latino youngsters? If they exist at all, they are probably non-Hispanics.
The history textbooks in our schools, for example, contain considerable information on the roles and achievements of other ethnic and racial groups in our society-even those from other countries-who participated in some of our most notable historical events, such as the American Revolutionary War. But there is little or nothing about Hispanics.
Seminars, symposia, workshops: Contract motivational speakers and discussion leaders to conduct motivational activities with Hispanic youth groups, to instill in their members pride in their cultural heritage, to raise their self-esteem and to inspire them to strive for excellence. There will be several of these activities, each one reinforcing the other.
Also, the same speakers and leaders will train local people to be specialized motivational counselors and facilitators, thereby developing permanent talent in each Latino community, which will support and follow up with the participants in these activities.
The youngsters will receive positive information about their people, such as the contributions that Hispanics have made to this great country, which can be found in the Hispanics Contributions website, at www.hispaniccontributions.org.
Music: Establish and develop an after-school choral music education and performance program similar to that of Kidsingers, an award-winning, inner-city youth chorus that is comprised of 95% Hispanic youth from Santa Ana, California. Its mission is "to empower at-risk youth to gain self-esteem, self-expression and a sense of community accomplishment through the discipline of quality music training and performance opportunities creating 'harmony for a better community.'" A University of California, Irvine impact study showed an 87% increase in self-esteem in youngsters participating in Kidsingers.
Positive Peer Groups: One result of the seminars, symposia and workshops will be efforts to identify, train, guide and support young individuals who would organize other Hispanic youths into positive peer groups in their communities, which will counsel and assist their "at-risk" peers socially and academically. The ideal persons to form these groups will be Hispanic students in local colleges and universities who have demon-strated the following:
Inspirational Hispanics: Reading and discussion groups will be organized with and for young Hispanics to inspire them to improve their lives. The topic to be covered in these gatherings will be the accomplishments and contributions of Hispanic Americans, past and present.
Before these group participants get together, they will prepare themselves by visiting our other website (at www.hispaniccontributions.org) and by reading the following books by Frank DeVarona:
Mentors: Successful adults in occupations in which Latino youths want to pursue careers will be the latter's mentors, supporting, guiding and inspiring them to become winners in their chosen professions.
Parent Support Groups: Groups, organized and supported through this project, will motivate Hispanic parents to be involved in their children's lives: supporting, guiding and motivating them. The parents will also receive the support they need to carry out their activities effectively.
Prominent Motivational Personalities: Outstanding Hispanic figures from the entertainment industry, mass communications, organized labor, business, academia, art, sports and public service will participate together in nationally televised forums. These activities would be recorded on videotapes and compact discs and distributed to Hispanic student, church, business and community groups. Extraordinary Hispanics (some of them identified in elsewhere in this website) would share the stage and the limelight with these personalities.
Students As Role Models: The young people, the focus of our project, will be motivated by Hispanic college students who have demonstrated:
Students As Achievers And Contributors: Hispanic high school and college students who excel academically and plan careers that can benefit their communities will be inducted into Hispanic Achievers Society, a national organization committed to fostering academic excellence and community involvement among young Latinos. It will, among other things, recognize these students for their achievements and provide them with sub-stantive support, such as scholarships, to enable them to pursue their chosen careers.
Textbooks: Textbook publishers will be asked to include in history books information about the roles that Hispanics have played in the history of the United States.
Historians: Throughout the year, and especially during Hispanic Heritage Month, under Partners' auspices, historians would visit Hispanic communities and organizations and educational institutions with relatively large percentages of Hispanics to tell them about the historical role of their people in this and other countries. Ideally, these visits would take place when the motivational activities mentioned above were taking place, thereby reinforcing them.
Interactive Compact Recordable Discs: salient information in books that dealt with Hispanic achievements and contributions in the United States would also be on compact recordable discs, which would:
Scholars: Colleges and universities with large concentrations of Hispanics will be encouraged to establish Eminent Scholar chairs for Hispanics and persuade corporations to endow the chairs, which would:
Elementary and Secondary School Curricula: Hispanic community organizations will be encouraged to persuade their local public school boards to:
Films: Film producers, directors and writers will be encouraged to collaborate in producing big-screen and television drama and documentary films with themes that deal with Hispanics and include Hispanic performers. One of these films, for example, could focus on a protagonist who represents the Hispanic Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.
Besides providing entertainment, the films would stimulate thought and discussion about past and current roles of Hispanics in this society.
Improvements will come gradually, but come they will if everyone involved:
Indicators of improvements in Latino youth
Other indicators of the project's progress
Annually, we will:
Initially, the funds we seek will cover the cost of laying the groundwork for our project and for its implementation. Once this activity is underway and producing positive results, we will solicit additional funds for the following:
Financial aid for students: Hispanic students with outstanding grades, who commit themselves to serving their communities, will be offered scholarships to continue their education.
Nationally Televised Ceremonies: Annually, during Hispanic Heritage Month, there will be a ceremony to honor the students, teachers and schools that have contributed the most to the pursuit of our objective. We will try to persuade the appropriate entities to televise this activity nationally.
Sesame Workshop Productions: Sesame Workshop, Inc., owns and produces the popular Sesame Street television shows in this and in almost two thirds of the other countries. We will ask this company to produce inspirational television and stage shows for Hispanic children.
Music: Establish and develop an after-school choral music education and performance program similar to that of Kidsingers, an award-winning, inner-city youth chorus that is comprised of 95% Hispanic youth from Santa Ana, California. Its mission is “to empower at-risk youth to gain self-esteem, self-expression and a sense of community accomplishment through the discipline of quality music training and performance opportunities creating harmony for a better community. A University of California, Irvine impact study showed an 87% increase in self-esteem in youngsters participating in Kidsingers.