College can be challenging for even the best prepared students. For Chicanx and Latinx students, the transition to college and the rigor of their classes can be especially daunting. I know, both as a first generation Latina and as a researcher.
In 2003, as a PhD student in the newly established UC Davis
School of Education, I researched how a high school was preparing
Chicanx/Latinx English learner students for college. My
dissertation uncovered inadequacies at a high-performing high
school to provide the rigor necessary for Chicanx and Latinx
English learners entering college to succeed. Though nearly half
of the classes these students were taking met entrance
requirements for university admission, they were not often
rigorous. Typical classes for English learners included ceramics,
photography and environmental science, rather than calculus,
biology, physics and chemistry. Unfortunately
this school was not an outlier.
Now, as the associate director at the UC Davis Center for Chicanx and Latinx Academic Student Success, I’m working with some of our 7,000 Chicanx/Latinx students, and I can see that they’re facing the same challenges as the students I studied for my dissertation. We can help students who are struggling in their courses to find the academic assistance they need, and we provide a close-knit and caring community of professionals and peers who understand their struggles and challenges. We also celebrate the many academic accomplishments of our students who are doing well.
Watching my students become the scholars and professionals they are meant to be has been life changing.