EDUCATION BUILDS A FUTURE
Latinas everywhere face strong obstacles to their personal and professional development; that is well-known. Many of us have made strides and overcome obstacles and adversity in order to reach success; however, the vast majority of Latinas still encounter invisible, but solid barriers to build better lives for themselves, and the external forces that create those barriers are still latent, potent, and evident. Education is undoubtedly the best tool for Latinas to continue a significant and constant path to a better life.
Education is indeed an elixir that begins to heal many social plagues. Our culture, in spite of its goodness, imposes limiting barriers for women. Some of the obstacles Latinas face to further their education are: 1) limited education in the household; 2) marrying at an early age; 4) teen pregnancies; 4) having a family and aiding with extended family which leads to premature adulthood; 5) high school graduation rate for Latinas is lower than for any other ethnic group; 6) Latinas are less prepared and less likely to take college entrance examination exams than any other ethnic group; 7) Latinas are under-enrolled in gifted and talented education programs in schools, more than any other ethnic group; 8) Latinas are the least likely of any women to complete a bachelor’s degree; 9) isolation, racism, stereotyping, and prejudice in schools, colleges, and universities; 10) depression and mental health issues that leads Latinas to attempt suicide more than young women and women of any other ethnic group; 11) lack of financial resources to go to college; and 12) limited access to information on educational options, programs, and financial aid to go to college.
Why are Latinas so plagued with these problems? Latinas are raised in traditional homes that enforce them to conform to traditional expectations for females. There are low expectations from families when it comes to Latinas and their education. These low expectations come from their families, school teachers, and faculty in college. Because of the strict traditional roles and unquestioned respect to authority, Latinas lack networking skills to reach out. The Hispanic culture puts family obligations and responsibilities in higher regard with respect to education, and families impose these obligations and responsibilities on its women. Even when Latinas work outside the household and/or study, they are expected to come home and fulfill the vast majority of household chores and family duties. Another obstacle Latinas face when trying to pursue their education is the fact that they lack the support and understanding from family members in the household or their spouses when these women are trying to fulfill their school/college workload. The lack of role models, and lack of encouraging messages to stay in school and pursue higher education from key persons in these young women’s lives (parents, spouses, teachers, etc), instill in the psyches of Latinas a defeating attitude toward education. Another big issue is that Latinas may not understand the enhanced long-term benefits of education, and short term economic needs of the family, along with the instant gratification of a paycheck, may mirage to Latinas a false sense of stability and well-being.
How do we cure this plague? We must all become the voice that speaks to Latinas, loud and clear, about the benefits of pursuing an education. We must reach out to them and help them build a future. We are all responsible for the future of women in our culture, in our society and in our world. For those of us who have walked the walk and have overcome the obstacles of our culture, society, and to our education, helped by other comadres and hermanas, we must pay it forward. With our encouragement, example, and determination, we can make a difference in a young Latina’s life. Education builds a future!