President & CEO Marty Martinez reflects on why he believes empowering youth-adult relationships are so important to the Latino community.
As Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close, I am struck by how much the future success of our country is tied to the success of our Latino youth.
Just look at the numbers. According to the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), 70.3% of Hispanic high school graduates ages 16-25 were enrolled in college in 2012, compared to 65.7% for whites. Add to this the facts that Hispanics have had the second largest growth of any population group since 2000; the median age of the Hispanic population is nearly ten years younger than the rest of America; an increasing number of Hispanics are born here; and Hispanic purchasing power is expected to reach $1.5 trillion by 2015, and it’s not a stretch to say that the future of America is largely Latino.
This incredible growth presents an enormous opportunity and an enormous challenge. As many Hispanic kids grow up, they will be forging new paths, sometimes without the benefit of learning from those who came before them. As someone who knows that path firsthand, I know how important it was to have the tremendous support that my family gave me. But I also know that my mentors and other caring adults helped me discover and articulate my aspirations for something greater. Now more than ever, our Latino youth need to be engaged in empowering youth-adult relationships such as these that will serve as steady and positive influences in their lives.
One area where we must be vigilant is education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010 the dropout rate for Hispanic youth in the U.S. was 17.6%, significantly more than African American or Caucasian students. A high dropout rate carries costs for the individual students, their communities and society overall. In order to ensure that the Latino future is a successful one, we must do all we can to keep our youth in high school and on the path to college and careers.
From mentoring programs to faith based youth programs, from teen centers to sports leagues, Latino youth are engaged in variety of activities and programs to help them build their resiliency. Our communities have a long history of taking care of our own and working to support each generation as it comes through the challenges of the past. We must continue that legacy and use the impact of caring youth-adult relationships to make a prosperous future a reality. Empowering relationships can happen anywhere—in the kitchen, on the basketball court, in the classroom, and in the office. As we look to the future, I hope that my Latino brothers and sisters will find a way to inspire and engage a young person and help to bring the next generation along, as our mentors did for us.
Remember, every little bit of mentoring goes a long way. By doing so, you will truly be helping to shape the future of America.
To learn how you can volunteer or about Mass Mentoring Partnership efforts in the Hispanic community, please visit massmentors.org.
President & CEO