The “Juntos” program is fighting the dropout rate among Hispanic students by working with them and their families to encourage staying in school and teaches them how to be successful in high school and later on.
On Sunday afternoons, middle school students meet with their parents at Olivet Presbyterian Church and Mission in Cedar Rapids for a class in the basement. It’s not a graded class, but the discussion centers on how the grade-point average affects a college application. Other topics include community service, high school expectations and extracurricular activities.
Spanish is the language spoken for most of the two hour session. “Juntos” – or “Together” – is offered by Iowa State University Extension. Program officials want to keep Latino students from dropping out of school. Preparing middle school students with encouragement and expectation is one way to keep them from falling through the cracks later.
Last year the dropout rate for Hispanic students was 4.7 percent. The overall dropout rate for the same period was 2.5 percent.
“They leave their high school maybe because they don’t have any motivation, maybe because they don’t have enough money to go to college, maybe they don’t have very good grades,” said Hispanic program specialist Monica Vallejo, at Young Parents Network in Cedar Rapids. The YPN has partnered with ISU Extension to offer the program. “We need the motivation, we need to do something. This program can open minds (for) a lot of Latinos.”