Latino Student Success Initiative


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Tina Gridiron, Lumina Foundation’s Senior Strategy Officer, offers Civitas Learning Space highlights from early learnings on Lumina’s Latino Student Success effort.

About the Initiative

Recognizing that Latinos are the fastest growing student population in America, the initiative is focused on increasing Latino’s educational attainment for the future of the nation. The $11.5 million (over four years) in grant funding include collaborations in 13 communities from 11 states. To be eligible for funding, programs must include a cross-sector collaboration of multiple sectors including K-12, higher education, policy makers, business community, non-profits, and advocacy groups. The Collective Impact philosophy of partner FSG helped inform the decision that multiple members of the community must work together to reach the desired long-term goal to increase the postsecondary preparation, access and attainment for more than 200,000 students touched by this effort over the next four years. The Foundation also partnered with Excelencia in Education to help coordinate and provide technical assistance to communities in this effort.

Early Work: Successes and Challenges to Latino Student Success

“Latino students frequently must overcome many barriers that exist due to the considerable disconnect between K12 and higher education in their local community,” said Tina Gridiron. “However, even in our first year of implementation it is encouraging to see many of our Latino Student Success communities working hard to create a much stronger connection between K12 and higher education. They are definitely making postsecondary preparation, persistence and success a reality for many Latino students.

Strong Leadership and Collaboration Key

Strong leadership has been identified as a key lever to achieve success for Latinos from both system and community perspectives. The great news among the Latino Student Success communities is – as barriers and disconnects for Latinos are lifted – all students in the community (regardless of race and ethnicity) are benefitting.” As encouraging as that is, Gridiron cautions that for many communities, the process of developing and maintaining strong community collaboration is often a dance of three steps forwards and one step back. “We find that, across the board, collaboration is hard,” explains Gridiron. “When any community brings disparate partners to the table there are challenges. Building trust, creating a common understanding of the goals and developing a systemic and systematic approach to share information can be difficult to achieve.”

Best Practices from Year One Implementation: Four Early Winners

“We can see four obvious early winners. These strong players in the program include two projects that have pre-existing long term commitments to Latino student success, while the other two are emerging communities facing double digit Latino population growth,” said Gridiron. She offers insights on these early examples of progress. Beginning with examples of communities that have over a ten-year pre-existing commitment to Latino success:

The San Antonio Education Partnership – “Led by the San Antonio Education Fund, this project is gaining traction using consistent data tracking, transparent articulation of their data, strong data analysis and dedicated long-term dedicated leaders within Texas,” said Gridiron. The partnership unites 16 cross-sector partners to integrate existing programs and projects into a systemic approach centered on city-wide data gathering and shared metrics, systems and mechanics and bridging transitions, systems navigation readiness for students and parents, and pathways to economic opportunity and workforce alignment. To learn more, contact Tessa Benavides.

The Santa Ana Partnership’s Adelante Program – Santa Ana College’s program is a guaranteed admission pathway that employs strategies including completion of the SAC admission and financial aid and scholarship applications by all seniors in the Santa Ana ISD, specialized pre and post transfer planning, guaranteed funding assistance, and support services and activities. “They benefit from the long-term commitment of team leader Sara Lundquist, Vice President for Student Services who is also a President Obama appointee on the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics,” said Gridiron. Lundquist leads a community with a pre-existing 20-year commitment to the cause. “Common trust, common goals, common platforms and a consistent commitment to Latino Student success are paying off, “said Gridiron. For more information, contact Teresa Mercado-Cota. On the flip side, Gridiron says Lumina Foundation is also very interested in supporting Latino Student Success efforts in “emerging communities” – places that are enjoying a recent double-digit growth in the Latino population from the 2000 to the 2010 Census. -and two communities in particular are having strong early wins. “These emerging communities have strong leadership in the community, higher education and K-12 sectors, and they are embracing new strategies, programs and services to increase Latino student success,” said Gridiron.

Armstrong Atlantic State University – Armstrong Atlantic State University in Georgia is executing the College Access Mentoring Information and Outreach program. Outreach includes parent engagement of first-generation college students and enhanced college support services. For nontraditional students, programs include, but are not limited to, targeted marketing, recruitment and admissions counseling. To learn more, contact Gail Eubanks.

Blue Grass Community and Technical College – Blue Grass Community and Technical College is focusing on traditional and adult learners with the Kentucky Latino Education Alliance (K’LEA), a collaboration to improve policy and develop data-driven strategies for increased college preparation and retention rates. To learn more, contact Vernal Kennedy.

Two Critical Success Factors

As Gridiron examines the first year of the Latino Student Success effort she sees two critical success factors. “Any community interested in increasing its college completion and attainment must exercise discipline to ensure that the energy, work and conversations that surround Latino Student Success includes college completion strategies as often as they discuss K-12 pipeline efforts,” Gridiron urges. “Even if our nation achieves ultimate success in increasing high school completion and college enrollment, we will not meet President Obama’s 2020 Goal, or Lumina Foundation’s goal to increase the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025.”She says successful initiatives must also reach out to adult learners. “We have to think about the working single mother, the male in a labor trade that has become increasingly technical, and other workers with some college but no degree,” she said. “The four communities I’ve named are among the strong examples of progress during the first year of implementation for the Latino Student Success effort. All have maintained a strong commitment to serving all Latino students, regardless of age or nontraditional postsecondary journey.

The second critical factor to making progress within any Latino Student Success effort is a consistent dedication to serve “all talent” within the community. She encourages college and university leaders working to increase Latino college attainment to be mindful of the challenges that undocumented students face. “Whether it’s an undocumented student or a student who may be a full citizen but is reluctant to complete the FAFSA because of their parent’s status…we must work to ensure that all students have a clear pathway to postsecondary success. We must maintain a high commitment to cultural competency and system reform to address the educational realities and barriers facing all Latino students regardless of status.” All 13 communities in Lumina’s four-year effort have committed to collect, use, share and disaggregate data on Latino Student Success. They have set goals, timelines, milestones and metrics to demonstrate increases in Latino college success.


Tina Gridiron

As a Senior Strategy Officer for Lumina Foundation, an Indianapolis-based private foundation dedicated to expanding access to and success in education beyond high school, Ms. Gridiron has been a grant officer for Lumina, and currently leads their Latino Student Success effort, co-directs Lumina’s Minority Serving Institutions – Models of Success effort, and additional project work advancing Lumina's Goal 2025 agenda.

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