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.
"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.
"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.
"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.