As preparations begin for a new school year, students from San Benito County will get an extra support this fall to graduate high school and attend college through LULAC’s Latinos Early Academic Pathway (LEAP) Program.
Working with Gavilan College’s MESA Program and San Benito High School, San Benito LULAC Council #2890 will help local students remain engaged in school and pursue a higher education by providing personal development, college preparation, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) activities.
San Benito County LULAC is one of the 10 2017 Ford Driving Dreams Grants recipients from the Ford Motor Company Fund. The local council has been awarded $20,000 to implement a program that helps students achieve on-time high school graduation and be inspired to attend a university over the course of two school years.
"Helping young people succeed is a constant effort we have made possible in association with Ford Motor Company Fund so students can graduate high school on time and pursue a college education. Today we celebrate and recognize the work of the councils who are making sure that their communities are being empowered through academic excellence," said Brent Wilkes, chief executive officer of LULAC.
LULAC’s LEAP Program will be lead by locals Marcella Serrano and Dr. Eduardo Cervantes. They were both products of San Benito LULAC Youth and education programs. They went on to pursue careers as educators. Now, they are giving back by starting LEAP to help support Latino students. The LEAP Program will consist of providing students with personal development, college preparation and college visits.
Another program component involves participating in hands-on, STEM-based activities led by Gavilan College MESA students, such as building mouse trap race cars and drone technology workshops. Recent studies show that even though dropout rates are decreasing and college enrollment in increasing for Hispanic youth, they continue to lag when compared to other groups.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in California only 60.5 pecent of Latinos graduate from high school, which is about 24 percent lower than the graduation rates of whites (84.3 percent). Furthermore, 11.4 percent of Latinos in California earn a bachelor's degree, which is 20.9 percent lower than the bachelor degree attainment rates for whites (32.3 percent).
"Education has long been a priority for Ford, and we are committed to helping our youth acquire the tools they need for future success," said Joe Avila, manager of the Ford Motor Company Fund.
The Ford Driving Dreams Grants program selection process considered the best practices for engaging students, such as mentorship programs, after-school volunteer and extracurricular programs, and parental involvement. The LULAC councils will begin implementing their programs this fall.
San Benito LULAC would like to extend its deepest gratitude to Tiffany Ford of Hollister for providing grant support.