At a forum today on Latino youth, Dr. Patricia Foxen, Deputy Director of Research at NCLR (National Council of La Raza), introduced her new study, “Resilient Latino Youth: In Their Own Words,” on young, second-generation American Latinos who struggled to cope with poverty, discrimination or disengagement but overcame these obstacles to become productive members of society.

“The guidance and support that adults can provide to young people at risk is literally lifesaving in helping them overcome challenges. We must make sure that youth today have an after-school program or mentor looking out for them,” Foxen said.

NCLR experts emphasized policies that can concentrate resources and improve opportunities for this vital segment of our population.

  1. Tap into the natural resiliency of Latino youth. These qualities include optimism, perseverance, social skills, empathy, a strong willingness to give back to their communities and family and cultural traits such as responsibility and family solidarity.
  2. Help their families escape poverty through living wages and affordable housing. One-third of Latino children are in poverty today, which extends for generations and is the basis of many other problems.
  3. Implement policies such the “REDEEM Act,” reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and support Common Core State Standards so schools will better meet the needs of Latino students and improve their graduation rate. More Latinos are graduating high school than ever before, yet only 51 percent of Latino college students will earn a bachelor’s degree within six years.
  4. Fund culturally appropriate, holistic programs that support youth development, mental health and academic and workforce skills, and introduce students to new interests and technologies. For youth and families living in poor immigrant neighborhoods, community-based interventions such as the NCLR Escalera Program provide important support including career exploration, skills and leadership development, personal development, academic support and overall well-being.
  5. Provide mentors who can help youth become ready for a successful future. “Community-based organizations like Gads Hill Center in Chicago provide critical supports to help youth overcome adversity usually rooted in poverty, discrimination, inadequate education and violent neighborhoods,” said Maricela Garcia, Chief Executive Officer, Gads Hill Center.

NCLR—the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. For more information on NCLR, please visit or follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

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