Hispanic Heritage Month: Reflect, Celebrate and Act

By Yvette Donado

Princeton, NJ [CapitalWirePR] August 31, 2012 – Some people question the term “Hispanic.” Others decry the celebratory activities. And many non-Latinos scarcely notice the commemoration. If they do, many ask why the nation should mark Hispanic Heritage Month at all. Here’s my take.

Sure, we should celebrate our contributions to our nation’s founding, independence growth and defense; our growing influence in government, fashion, food, music and the arts; and much more.

For more than a decade, Educational Testing Service has done just that. Each year, we invite a Latino leader to share his or her views on education during Hispanic Heritage Month. We delight in listening to them and learning from them.

Why? Because we have much to learn and much to share. For example, our visiting speakers may not be fully aware of the work ETS conducts in the areas of policy research and analysis, our series of symposia or our reports on the academic achievement gap.

Our research and that of other organizations consistently show that Latinos lag in educational attainment and other areas. Those facts we cannot celebrate. However, we can and should bring attention to education during our heritage month reflection and celebration. So, for this year:

Let’s reflect on how to lower persistently high dropout rates; on how to increase the number of Latino college and university presidents (now under 4 percent, and of these, about half are at community colleges); on the fact that Latino males lag behind Latinas les in college admissions and completion; and on how to redress the calamity of poor schools (where most of our kids are) with poor teachers and poor facilities (and some wonder why our kids lag!).

Let’s celebrate that the 2012 Grand Marshall of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade was Félix Matos Rodríguez, president of Hostos Community College in New York. Hostos, where Latinos account for about 60 percent of the student enrollment, has boosted its retention, graduation and transfer rates to four-year institutions as well as its overall educational achievement levels. Those accomplishments are worth celebrating — and replicating.

Let’s reflect on out how to create a “college-bound” culture in Latino families; how to help hard-working parents instill the idea that tests are not barriers but a useful conduit to their children’s success; how tests show what students can do and not merely what they can’t do; and how to encourage parents to turn off the TV and read more with their children.

Let’s celebrate all of ourrole models for tomorrow — Latino educators, scientists, astronauts, academicians, entrepreneurs alongside the Latino celebrities and athletes. After all, both the famous and not-so-famous play important roles in inspiring our youth.

Lastly, let’s act. While it is of vital concern for Hispanics and other Americans to reflect and celebrate during Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s even more important for us act to improve the educational attainment of the nation’s fastest-growing population.

Latinos, after all, are destined to contribute immeasurably to our nation’s greater productivity and sustained global competitiveness. If we fail these young people, we will ultimately fail our nation. So should we reflect? Yes! Should we celebrate? Yes! Should we act? Yes! Yes! Yes!

Yvette Donado, a New York City-born Puerto Rican, is the Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Educational Testing Service, the world’s largest nonprofit educational research and testing organization. It is based in Princeton, N.J.


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