May 2, 2018
Lincoln, Neb. — A new program offered by Nebraska Extension aims to help the state’s Latino students reach high school graduation and attend college. The Juntos program recently piloted in Columbus, with approximately 10 families participating in educational workshops conducted in Spanish.
Juntos (pronounced “Who-n-toes”) means “together” in Spanish and works to unite community partners to provide Latino middle school students and their parents with knowledge, skills and resources to prevent youth from dropping out of school and to encourage families to work together to gain access to college. As part of Juntos, Latino parents work together with their seventh and eighth grade students in a five-week family workshop series. Bilingual workshop leaders engage the participants in sessions focused on topics ranging from making education a family goal to exploring options for higher education.
“In developing this program, we really felt being able to conduct the workshops in Spanish would be the gatekeeper for making Juntos work,” said Extension Educator Jill Goedeken, who worked with partners from Lakeview Community Schools and Columbus Public Schools in Columbus to organize the workshops.
The Latino population is among the least educated group in the United States. According to the Pew Research Center, Latinos make up 10 percent of Nebraska’s population and that population is expected to triple by 2050. The language barrier is one of the most significant factors limiting Latinos' educational attainment.
In addition to Juntos’ interactive sessions, supper is provided for the entire family and childcare is provided for younger siblings.
The first Juntos sessions in Columbus were purposely designed for smaller groups in order to create a welcoming space where parents and students felt comfortable asking questions. Guadalupe Nieto is Lakeview’s parent liaison and district translator. She led one of the Juntos workshops and witnessed the effectiveness of the smaller groups.
“The idea of higher education is a completely new concept for many Latino families. They don’t even know what questions to ask, so Juntos gives them a community where they feel safe seeking answers to the unknown,” Nieto said. In addition, Nieto says Juntos is appealing to Latinos because it incorporates the whole family in the workshops, which is very important in the Latino culture.
The Juntos program was made possible by an innovative programming grant awarded to the Nebraska Extension issue team focused on engaging underserved youth. The team is focused on increasing experiential learning opportunities for youth to become more confident and capable adults.
The program was originally created by North Carolina State University and has been modeled in over 100 communities across the country. In 2015, the program was named a "Bright Spot in Hispanic Education" by the White House on Educational Excellence for Hispanics initiative.
In addition to Columbus, Grand Island, Lincoln, Madison, Omaha, Scottsbluff and South Sioux City received Juntos training and those locations are expected to offer the program in the future.
To learn more about Juntos, visit https://4-h.org/parents/citizenship/juntos-4-h/.Jill Goedeken
Writer: Haley Apel - IANR Media