Sep 142010
Authors: Vashti Batjargal

When working with Latina high school students, Antonette Aragon found that most were discouraged about furthering their education.

During a kickoff event for National Hispanic Heritage Month, the CSU assistant professor said teens she met during her dissertation study were told things like, “I don’t understand why you’re so interested in college; I don’t know if you’ll make it.”

The problem, Aragon said, comes from a lack of cultural understanding, language barriers, race issues and often the inability to access resources in school and at home.

“(Latina students) felt like teachers didn’t understand who they were and their culture,” she said, adding that the students she met with felt the tension of racism in countless situations.

One student she met with was told that individuals of Mexican heritage would never succeed in life.

“It’s not the first time I’ve heard (racial discrimination). It happens in Fort Collins, it happens on our campus … as far as other students have expressed to me,” said
Natalie Lakey, a junior ethnic studies major. “They don’t feel welcome on this campus or within the educational environment.”

CSU hosts a program called Reach Out that aims to prepare underserved populations for college. The program targets Denver for its large minority population, said
Louise Jennings, an associate professor in the School of Education.

There are currently 1,732 Hispanic students at CSU, according to institutional research. That is 6.57 percent of the total CSU enrollment, which is 26,356 students.

Aragon said creating “collaborative programs between middle schools, high schools and colleges that promote graduation incentives” could alleviate barriers in
higher education.

This theme was the basis for the recommendation for educators to provide teachers and counselors with diversity training focusing on multiculturalism and Latinas.

“There should be intensive and intentional training of teachers in Hispanic culture,” said Velia Munoz, a sophomore ethnic studies major. “How are teachers going to know where to take their students if they don’t know where they’ve been?”

Munoz, a native of Mexico, said she identified with a lot of the experiences presented by Aragon of the students in her research and said teachers might “subconsciously” give up on Hispanic students.

“It’s important for teachers to create an environment that (Latinas) feel comfortable in- one they can take part in, a safe environment where they can explore their identity,” Munoz said.

Staff writer Vashti Batjargal can be reached at

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