Latino students lag behind academically. A new program for parents tries to bridge the gap

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Excerpt from "Latino students lag behind academically. A new program for parents tries to bridge the gap"

PHOENIX - Herlinda Calderon has big dreams for her daughter, Oslin, a 14-year-old Phoenix high school freshman.

Calderon wants Oslin to attend college and pursue her goal of becoming a veterinarian.

But until recently, Calderon lacked any real knowledge of how to help Oslin turn a college dream into a reality.

Calderon, 45, only attended school through the 6th grade in Mexico. The mother of four earns money babysitting, cleaning houses and holding yard sales at her house west of downtown Phoenix.

"I've always had this dream for my children," Calderon said in Spanish. "But I never had the resources. I didn't have the information. Where to start. How to do it."

Now she does.

Last fall, Calderon participated in a groundbreaking program called the Parent Educator Academy. The program is aimed at giving low-income Latino parents such as Calderon the tools to help children succeed in school — and in the process help close a Latino student achievement gap in Arizona exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Calderon learned a lot of practical information to help her daughter get into college, including the importance of good grades, taking high-level high school courses, searching for college scholarships, scoring well on college entrance exams and filling out financial aid forms.

Above all, the mother of three school-age children learned she needed to take an active role in supporting — and advocating — for her children's education.

"You need to focus on your children's dreams, and support them and guide them," Calderon said.

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