Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Quest for Education

It seems like Our Lady of Guadalupe is telling us something here.

On December 11, The Pew Hispanic Center publishes "Between Two Worlds: How Latino Youths Come of Age in America, a new national survey of Latinos ages 16 to 25. On December 12, the University of Notre Dame unveils a report -- "The Catholic School Advantage: The Campaign to Improve Educational Opportunities for Latino Children" -- and launches a campaign to improve educational opportunities for the next generation of American Latinos by expanding their access to Catholic schools. The task force who worked on the report for over a year seeks to enroll one million Hispanic students in Catholic schools by 2020.

The timing of release for both reports is not coincidental, and even though put forth by two very different institutions, both reports seem to be in dialogue with one another.

The Pew survey finds that Latinos ages 16 to 25 are satisfied with their lives and optimistic about their futures. They value education, hard work and career success. But they are more likely than other youths to drop out of school, live in poverty and become teen parents. They also have high levels of exposure to gangs. And when it comes to self-identity, most straddle two worlds. The study also reveals the changing demographics of that huge mixed bag we call Latinos, with two-thirds of Hispanics, ages 16 to 25, being native-born Americans.

The Notre Dame release seems like a timely response and a statement that Catholic education can and must play a role—an important one for that matter—in improving economic and education levels, as well as overall life satisfaction, of Latinos in this country.

With education, both secular and Catholic, being one of the key priorities for the U.S. Catholic bishops, church leaders are sure to applaud this initiative from Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) and others; and the findings from the Pew report are sure to guide their pastoral efforts with this important and growing segment of the U.S. Catholic population that are the Hispanic youth and young adults.

The quest for education is getting a little help. It is to be hoped-- and expected-- many others will step up to the plate. Notre Dame of Guadalupe, pray for us!

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