Ahead of the launch of Latinnovating, I posted the “Two by 2020 Mentoring Challenge.” This is my wake-up call to all Americans, with shocking, absolute, meaningful numbers that truly depict the current crisis and future consequence of America’s fastest growing minority group being the least educated. It includes a prescription of what actions a mentor can and should take to change a young Latino life. Mentoring is the action that made the difference for many of us who were the first in our families to attend and graduate from college. A non-Latino (typically) mentor intervened, told us we had to seek higher education and guided us through the “how.” In my case, as in many, my mentor also helped me connect with funding sources. This knowledge and guidance made it possible for me to leave my small town in Colorado for the University of California in Berkeley. I went there on an Air Force ROTC scholarship which (thankfully) paid all out-of-state tuition, fees, books and provided a stipend.
Since my original blog post, this challenge suddenly got tied to the discussion surrounding the DREAM act, when a young, high-profile man came out as an undocumented immigrant. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Jose Antonio Vargas at a fundraising dinner at his alma mater last November at San Francisco State. That night we chatted about our creative projects and exchanged cards. During the event, we screened his documentary about the hidden AIDS epidemic in our nation’s capital city. I saw first hand how highly he is respected by all who know him and his work. I joined many Americans in shock the day this Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist broke the news in the New York Times about how he came to the U.S. as a child and how he learned of his immigration status.
Why this connection? It’s simple really. If you read my original post and take a moment to absorb the number of college graduates needed annually from the Latino community for our nation to remain competitive and educated versus other nation states (611,000) and compare to the number of Latino college graduates currently being produced (130,000), you can start to see how the DREAM act plays into this mentoring challenge.
Then, to truly be shocked, look at how many Latino high school students graduate each year (300,000). How many more would there be if we passed the DREAM act? How many more kids would START high school instead of giving up after middle school because they know they’re undocumented and feel there’s no hope and no future beyond high school?
My point is this: we don’t have any Latino students and brains to waste if America wants to seriously compete in the 21st century. We simply do not have that luxury.
Mentoring two young Latinos for the long-term, to ensure they graduate from college, is something many more Americans must do. As side show conversations and reform “attempts” continue, we lose more of our kids each day. To make a real difference, commit to this and take the Two by 2020 Mentoring Challenge. It’s the one thing you CAN do to begin to change a life, and the trajectory of that kid’s entire future and that of his/her descendants, forever. Mentoring is the only way that some of the stories in the pages of Latinnovating became possible. Read them for yourself; reflect on my story in first paragraph, then please jump in! Join me?