Helping a child succeed in school and prepare for education beyond high school can challenge any parent. When parents have not experienced college, it can be difficult to know how to create a path for their child to go to college. In Iowa, college participation is lowest among youth who live in families with low incomes and among Latino youth. “Juntos Para Una Mejor Educación” or “Together for a Better Education” is a series of workshops for parents and middle school youth to help them gain knowledge, skills and confidence, and access resources that will help youth be successful in school, as well as pursue higher education.
High school youth are welcome to participate as well. Sandra McKinnon, human sciences specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach, says “Juntos means together in Spanish.”The program brings together Latino families, school staff and community partners to promote academic success and high school graduation among youth. Youth explore different paths they may take – a college or university, community college or trade school, a degree or certification, and so on.
ISU Extension and Outreach partners with local organizations and schools to implement Juntos and some or all of the wrap-around components in communities. The program is led by a community team that commonly includes representatives from schools, public and private youth and family community-based organizations, as well as faith organizations. McKinnon says “In Juntos we come together for five to six workshops. We begin each session with a family meal. During the sessions parents and youth spend part of the time together, and then part of the time as a group of parents or a group of youth. During the first session we discuss the importance of education and how parents and youth can work together to make education a family goal.”
Parents and youth learn to communicate better with each other, as well as with school staff to help youth be successful in school, and to think about their future. Families learn about skills that are important for youth to develop, and how to create a plan of action to help youth be successful in school and be prepared to go to college. Families learn about courses youth need to take in high school to prepare for college, how to create an environment at home to help youth learn, how and when to apply to college, and ways to save for and pay for college.
After participating in Juntos, parents felt more confident working with their youth’s school, were more likely to pay attention to their child’s homework and increased communication with their youth about high school, college or other future plans. Parents also were more empowered to advocate and work to improve their schools. For more information about “Juntos: Together for a Better Education,” contact Sandra McKinnon at 712-355-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website, www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/juntos