Living in the Shadows: Helping Latina High School Students in Georgia with College Preparedness


Scarbrough 2

Strand #1

Academic Achievement & School Leadership


This presentation will address the HEAD: Academic Achievement and Leadership in the area of post-secondary readiness. Latina migrant students often lack the appropriate support systems to prepare effectively for college. Social networks within the school and community can help support and further develop college preparedness among Latinas, with academic achievement as a potential end result.

Brief Program Description

Latinas’ college preparedness is often overlooked, particularly for those attending predominately White and Black schools. Inadequate social capital is one major reason for the lack of appropriate college preparedness among Latinas. This presentation, intended for educators, interested parents and students, addresses common barriers and current best practices for Latinas’ college readiness. A Latina student case study will be shared.


Latinas are the fastest growing ethnic group of females in the United States. Yet, Latinas are the most underrepresented in higher education (Contreras, 2011; Maes, 2010), have the lowest educational attainment (Burciaga, Huber, & Solorzano, 2010; Sanchez, Delgado, Villa,Vetterolf, &Velasquez, 2012), and are the least represented in the workforce (Maes, 2010; Sanchez et al., 2012). According to the American Community Survey of 2012, there were over 25 million Latinas in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013) and it was predicted that by 2050, they will represent 25% of all females in the country (Maes, 2010). Increasing the educational attainment of Latinas is a matter of social justice and maintaining the economic viability of the country. Latina high school students, migrant Latinas alike, have high aspirations for attending higher education institutions in pursuit of post-secondary degrees. However, college readiness can be challenging for Latina high schoolers due in part to a lack of appropriate social resources. The college preparedness of Latina high school students is often overlooked. In accordance with current literature, this presentation will explore school-related barriers that hinder Latina college preparedness and the best practices for countering their affects; particularly for Latinas residing in the deep South. As an African-American high school educator teaching in a predominantly White and Black community, the first author will share her experiences with helping one Latina high school student transition to higher education and the many barriers they faced on their journey. In addition, the first author will present her self-realizations on the lack of appropriate resources for Latinas, gatekeeping roles of educational stakeholders, and her efforts to address and bridge community agencies to help Latinas with college preparedness. The second author, a Latina professor, will present curricular approaches to enhance the participation of Latinas in more rigorous curricular tracks.


Preparing for college can be a challenge for most adolescents and their families. In addition to motivation and a desire for post-secondary education, college preparedness equates to the compilation of the rigorous coursework, grade point average, and achievement test scores that are accumulated in the short-lived high school years. Unfortunately, excelling in these areas alone, do not guarantee college access. Latinas do not fare well in college readiness as evidenced by disproportionately low college enrollment rates when compared to their White counterparts (Pew Research Center, 2014). Latinas residing in the traditional South experience many difficulties in college readiness due to the lack of appropriate school resources, such as culturally or linguistically savvy college guidance counselors who actively advocate and support Latinas in their academic struggles. Current literature discusses a number of social resources supporting college preparedness for Latina high school students. For example, educating and supporting Latina/o parents on the process of college readiness (Castellanos, Gloria, Herrera, Kanagui-Munoz, & Flores, 2013; Cortez, Martinez, & Sáenz, 2014; Perna & Kurban, 2013) have been shown to further support the affective domains necessary for a successful journey to college. Educating the parents, family, and student on how to prepare for college increases the likelihood of Latina college attendance (Downs et al., 2008). In educational settings, curricular approaches can help support and strengthen the participation of Latinas in more rigorous curriculum tracks. Culturally relevant approaches are key in the integration of student’s perspectives and ways to view the world (Suriel & Atwater, 2012). The commitment and collaboration of educational stakeholders to the college preparedness of Latinas have been suggested to help support Latinas’ success for college readiness (Yamamura, Martinez, & Sáenz, 2010). Perna and Kurban (2013) indicated that transition services focused on providing students with information about college admission requirements, the cost of college, and how to apply for financial assistance and scholarships were essential for increasing college readiness, particularly for Latinas. Targeted college preparedness programs for at-risk Latinas with particular focus on the utilization of cultural and social capital, have been shown to increase the probability and consideration for their participation in institutions of higher education (Cates & Schaefle, 2011). Stanton-Salazar (2001) suggests six forms of institutional supports that help in the nonacademic college readiness of Latina high school students. Stanton-Salazar’s (2001) six forms of institutional support include: 1. Funds of knowledge – Providing information about college admission requirements, how to apply to college, sources of financial aid, how to apply for financial aid, and what to expect in college. 2. Bridging – Acting as a human bridge to gate-keepers, to social networks, and to opportunities 3. Advocacy – Intervening on behalf of students for the purpose of protecting or promoting their interests 4. Role modeling – Modeling behaviors associated with effective participation in mainstream domains, and effective coping with stratification forces via help-seeking behaviors, and rational problem-solving strategies 5. Emotional and moral support – Provided in the context of other forms of support geared toward promoting effective participation in mainstream domains and effective coping with stratification forces 6. Personalized and soundly-based evaluative feedback advice and guidance – Incorporates the provision of institutional funds of knowledge as well as genuine emotional and moral support (p. 268). Effective transitions services and support services provided by educational agents such as counselors, teachers, or college preparation programs generally function within these six forms of support. Stanton-Salazar’s support system provides a foundation upon which educational agents can build positive relationships with Latina students and their parents in order to help students gain access to higher education. A number of college preparation programs for traditionally underrepresented youth have used Stanton-Salazar’s (2001) holistic approach to college readiness. These programs are structured to nurture the mind and the psyche, and some even connect the school, family, and community to form highly supportive networks for students. Programs like GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for the Undergraduate Programs), Project GRAD (Graduation Really Achieves Dreams), and Upward Bound have been successful in providing at-risk and underrepresented students with college counseling, mentoring, academic enrichment, and financial aid information (Calaff, 2008; Gándara & Contreras, 2009). Research indicates that at least one or more of Stanton-Salazar’s (2001) six forms of support are present in transition services and supports that are effective for increasing college access for Latina/o students. Institutional agents within schools can demonstrate this level of support through authentic caring that leads to other levels of support (Stanton-Salazar, 2001). Many college preparation programs function within all six forms of support to insure student access to college, as well as postsecondary success. Thus, Stanton-Salazar’s (2001) six forms of support are essential for providing effective transition services and supports to Latina students and their parents (Downs et al., 2008) to increase their college preparedness. References Burciaga, R., Huber, L.P., & Solorzano, D.G. (2010). Going back to the headwaters: Examining Latina/o educational attainment and achievement through a framework of hope. In E.G. Murillo, Jr. et al (Eds.), Handbook of Latinos and education: Theory, research, and practice (pp. 422-437). New York, NY: Routledge. Calaff, K.P. (2008). Latino students’ journeys toward college. Bilingual Research Journal, 31, 201-225. doi: 10.1080/15235880802640680 Castellanos, J., Gloria, A. M., Herrera, N., Kanagui-Munoz, M., & Flores, C. (2013). ¡Apoyamos La Educación de Nuestros Hija/os!: How Mexican Parents' College Knowledge, Perceptions, and Concerns Influence the Emotional and Behavioral Support of Their Children to Pursue Higher Education. Journal Of Latino-Latin American Studies (JOLLAS), 5(2), 85-98. Cates, J. T., & Schaefle, S. E. (2011). The relationship between a college preparation program and at-risk students' college readiness. Journal Of Latinos & Education, 10(4), 320-334. doi:10.1080/15348431.2011.605683 Contreras, F. (2011). Achieving equity for Latino students: Expanding the pathway to higher Education Through Public Policy. New York: Teachers College Press. Cortez, L., Martinez, M., & Sáenz, V. B. (2014). Por los ojos de madres: Latina mothers’ understandings of college readiness. International Journal Of Qualitative Studies In Education (QSE), 27(7), 877. doi:10.1080/09518398.2013.805851 Downs, A., Martin, J., Fossum, M., Martinez, S., Solorio, M., & Martinez, H. (2008). Parents teaching parents: A career and college knowledge program for Latino families. Journal of Latinos and Education, 7(3), 227-240. doi: 10.108/15348430802100295 Gándara, P. & Contreras, F. (2009). The Latino education crisis. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. Maes, J.B. (2010). Latinas and the Educational Pipeline. Retrieved on 03/03/13 from www.denvergov.org/edu Perna, L.W. & E.R. Kurban (2013). Improving college access and choice. In L.W. Perna & A.P. Jones (Eds.), The state of college access and completion: Improving college success for students from underrepresented groups (pp. 10-33). New York: Routledge. Pew Research Center (2014). Women’s college enrollment gains leave men behind. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/03/06/womens-college-enrollment-gains-leave-men-behind/ Sanchez, H.E., Delgado, A.L., Villa, D., Vetterolf, I.P., & Velasquez, J.S. (2012). Trabajadoras:Challenges and conditions of Latina worker in the United States. Retrieved from Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) website www.lclaa.org Stanton-Salazar, R.D. (2001). Manufacturing hope and despair: The school and kin support networks of U.S.-Mexican youth. New York: Teachers College Press. Suriel, R. & Atwater, M. M. (2012). From the contribution to the action approach: White teachers’ experiences influencing the development of multicultural science curricula. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49(10), 1271-1295. U.S. Census Bureau (2013). 2012 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimate. Retrieved from www.census.gov Yamamura, E. K., Martinez, M. A., & Saenz, V. B. (2010). Moving Beyond High School Expectations: Examining Stakeholders' Responsibility for Increasing Latina/o Students' College Readiness. High School Journal, 93(3), 126-148.


Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

First author

Treva Gear is a doctoral student in Adult and Career Education at Valdosta State University. She is also a science teacher at Lowndes High School. Treva received her bachelor's degree in education from Valdosta State University (2000) and her master's degree in post-secondary education from Troy University (2007). Treva is a U.S. Army veteran. Her research interests include college and career readiness, equity in education, social justice, and critical race theory issues.

Second author

Regina Suriel is a Science Educator in the Middle, Secondary, Reading and Deaf Education Department at Valdosta State University. She received her doctoral degree from the University of Georgia. Dr. Suriel has published a number of works concerning science education, especially in regards to Latino science learners. Prior to her doctoral work, Dr. Suriel was a high school science teacher in the New York City public school system.

Keyword Descriptors

Latinas/os, college preparation, barriers to college, social capital, transition services

Presentation Year


Start Date

3-3-2015 1:00 PM

End Date

3-3-2015 2:15 PM

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Mar 3rd, 1:00 PM Mar 3rd, 2:15 PM

Living in the Shadows: Helping Latina High School Students in Georgia with College Preparedness

Scarbrough 2

Latinas’ college preparedness is often overlooked, particularly for those attending predominately White and Black schools. Inadequate social capital is one major reason for the lack of appropriate college preparedness among Latinas. This presentation, intended for educators, interested parents and students, addresses common barriers and current best practices for Latinas’ college readiness. A Latina student case study will be shared.