Latinos in Action Founder Energizes Students
Dr. Jose Enriquez, Founder and CEO of Latinos in Action (LIA), recently visited the School District of Palm Beach County, speaking at several schools that currently offer LIA, in addition to meeting with schools planning to add the program in the future.
LIA is designed to bridge the graduation and opportunity gap for Latino students, working from within the educational system to create positive change. Currently, LIA is available at 10 schools in the District. The goal is to add more schools, expanding the program’s benefit and availability to a larger number of students.
“Our youth needs us, they are my heroes, they are our future,” said Dr. Enriquez. “There is no use in having a Ph.D. if I don't use it to help my people.”
LIA is a year-long elective course taught by highly-qualified teachers in middle and high schools. The goal is to empower Latino youth to lead and strengthen their communities through college and career readiness. The program focuses on four pillars: Leveraging Personal and Cultural Assets, Excelling in Education, Serving the Community, and Developing Leadership Skills.
Students in the program are expected to comply with a list of standards, designed to ensure their success in the program and beyond. That includes participating in weekly literacy tutoring, being part of an LIA committee, involvement in one extracurricular activity, and maintaining a GPA of at least 2.0., along with other requirements. Dr. Enriquez visited LIA students at Lake Worth Middle School and Atlantic Community High School, meeting with the administration and teachers who are also LIA instructors.
“When I’m teaching the program, it feels as if I am learning as well, like I’m giving myself a second opportunity,” said Erica Bell, an LIA Instructor and Secondary Resource and Developmental Language Arts teacher at Lake Worth Middle.
Additional stops on Dr. Enriquez’s tour of the District included Wellington Community High School and Boca Raton Community High School. Ultimately, the schools pledged to begin offering LIA on their campuses, recognizing the program’s need and value.
“Our Latino population has grown over the past few years and it is important that everyone is involved,” said Cara Hayden, the principal at Wellington Community High. “There is so much untapped potential and we need to provide our students with opportunities for leadership that will enhance our campus culture.”
Hispanic/Latino Studies is embedded into the program, allowing students the opportunity to learn about the contributions of Hispanics to the United States.
“Both school principals expressed the need for the program as their Hispanic/Latino student population is growing rapidly,” said Patricia Trejo, Hispanic/Latino Studies Administrative Program Planner. “They want their students to feel welcomed, have a sense of belonging, feel proud of their Hispanic/Latino culture, and strengthen their interest in education.”
Participation in the LIA program is not just for Hispanic/Latino students. Twenty percent of the available slots are set aside for other racial groups, with Hispanic/Latino students comprising 80%.
“Dr. Enriquez is extremely grateful for the help he received in highlighting how the students have benefited from participating in the program, as well as featuring the schools that will begin the LIA program.” Trejo said.