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WYSO's Lewis Wallace interviewing Trotwood-Madison High School teacher Alicia Pagan.00000173-90ba-d20e-a9f3-93ba72ce0000Graduating Latino is WYSO's series on education for Latino students in the Miami Valley, produced in partnership with Think TV. It's part of the public media initiative American Graduate, which is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.In much of the Miami Valley the Latino population has gone from about 2 percent in the mid-2000s, to 4 percent now. Around half the local Latino population is from Mexico, which means the other half represent a big cross-section: many Puerto Ricans, and people from Central and South America. The population is a mix of foreign-born and U.S.-born representing a diverse set of experiences.The launching point for this series is a persistent disparity in high school graduation rates between white and Latino students. In 2012 the graduation rate for white students in Ohio was 86 percent; for Latinos, it was 68, and for Black students it was 61 percent. Those racial and ethnic disparities also exist nationally, but the white/Hispanic disparity is much wider in Ohio than in the nation.Some local districts, especially Dayton, are looking at low graduation rates across the board. Latino kids fall through the cracks, but they’re not the only ones.The good news is, dropout rates in this country have been falling for decades now—for all students, and for Latinos especially. The percentage of Latino high schoolers to drop out completely went from 40 percent in 1972 to 15 percent in 2012. In the process of reporting these series we’ve met a lot of kids who are doing great, graduating and going to college. We also found that many of the kids who do drop out or don’t graduate on time are dealing with the same issues: the need to support their families, a belief that they can’t go on to college, or overwhelming life circumstances.The stories will range from preschool and kindergarten readiness to bilingual education to personal profiles of people dealing with not having legal status while trying to go to school. We’ll also hear about positive programs like El Puente in the Twin Towers neighborhood, Springfield’s Hispanic Outreach Program and a group of Puerto Rican Engineers working to mentor kids. We’ll visit high schools in Dayton and Trotwood. It’s by no means comprehensive, but we hope it will show a slice of what’s going on in this rich and diverse community.Look for stories from our whole news team from April 13-24 in our weekday news shows, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as online every day. You can also access local stories from WYSO through your smartphone on wyso.org or through the free app NPROne.00000173-90ba-d20e-a9f3-93ba72cf0001

Hispanic Outreach Program Continues To Grow In Springfield

Students have a chance to get help with school through the outreach program. hispanic springfield latino
Scott Marshall / Springfield City Schools
Students have a chance to get help with school through the Hispanic Outreach Program in Springfield.

Most recently on Graduating Latino, we visited Trotwood-Madison schools to learn about challenges for Latino students. Now we head to Clark County, where the number of kids identified as Hispanic doubled from 2002 to 2012. The Springfield City School District is reaching outside of the classroom to help families succeed.

Lourdes Narvaez Soto and Krystal Rosa stay busy at Springfield’s Hispanic Outreach Program. They’re tucked away in the program's cubby hole classroom at the district's administrative building—it's overstuffed with posters and pictures of scenes from Latin American countries. Soto says the set-up serves as a welcome mat to parents and students who are looking for something familiar.

The Hispanic Outreach Program in Springfield, helps younger students all the way through graduation.
Credit Scott Marshall / Springfield City Schools
Springfield City Schools
The Hispanic Outreach Program in Springfield helps younger students all the way through graduation.

"We try to integrate them to feel comfortable, it's just to feel welcome," she explains.

Soto coordinates this program at Springfield City Schools, with Rosa a her assistant. These two alone serve over 400 Latino children in the school district.

The program does more than just help kids get through school—it helps connect parents and their children with housing, clothing, medical care, and legal aid.

Hispanic Outreach Program assistant, Krystal Rosa, helps a steady flow of students who come into the office daily.
Credit Scott Marshall / Springfield City Schools

"Our goal is to include them in society right away, in the community right away, not to have them to wait and wait and not feel that they're a part of it," Soto says. "We try to within what's available, provide it to them."

The idea is to keep kids from falling through the cracks by staying in close contact with each family. There’s a constant flow of families in and out of this office.

Mother Says Program Helped Her
Laura Flores Villalpando has a six-year old daughter, Janelli H, who is in the first grade at Simon Kenton Elementary school.

She explains through a translator how the  Hispanic Outreach Program helped her get a GED, and that made it easier to understand her daughter's educational needs, and her daughter is doing well in school. Villalpando says they've overcome a lot and now she has even started her own business in Springfield, the Taco El Sol Mexican restaurant.

Success In Springfield Schools

Latino students statewide are still struggling to get to graduation: the average graduation rate in 2012 was 66 percent for Latinos, and 86 percent for whites, a disparity of 20 percentage points. But in the latest data available from Springfield City Schools, Latinos had a graduation rate of 81 percent—just 3 percentage points behind white students in the district.

Retiring superintendent Dr. David Estrop believes that programs like this work, because education isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation.

Latino students have a chance to work with bilingual technology as part of the Hispanic Outreach Program.
Credit Scott Marshall / Springfield City Schools
Latino students have a chance to work with bilingual technology as part of the Hispanic Outreach Program.

"It's about an opportunity or opportunities that have been created in this country that many, many of our forefathers and others, back in the history of our families, came over and experienced the same thing in this country," Estrop says. 

Discrimination And Fear Persist
But even as the program succeeds, Lourdes Narvaez Soto, the coordinator, says Latino students still face discrimination in playgrounds and classrooms. And there’s the factor of fear. A lot of the families don’t have legal status, and worry about being deported.

"We had once an open house at the Learning Cafe in the high school and they put the ROTC students their to receive all of the people," she say. "It was beautiful. It was very nice. My Hispanic families when they would see saw the uniforms, they would turn around and run away. It's like that. They're all of the time in fear."

The district expects the Latino population in Springfield to grow, and Soto hopes the Hispanic Outreach Program will grow with it.  

Graduating Latino is WYSO's series on education for Latinos in the Miami Valley, produced in partnership with Think TV. It's part of the public media initiative American Graduate, which is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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