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Glenbard D-87's Hispanic Leadership Academy aims to prepare all students for excellence

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 11:11 a.m. CST

The last few years have seen some changes for Hispanic high school students in the United States.

For the first time, a greater percentage of recent high school graduates who are Hispanic are enrolled in college compared to their white, non-Hispanic peers, according to data compiled by the Pew Research Center.

But despite this historic improvement, Hispanic students continue to lag behind in the completion of four-year college degrees, mostly because of financial management, said researcher, author and speaker Dr. Lourdes Ferrer, who studies the achievement gap among students of diverse backgrounds.

Ferrer will lead four workshops that will comprise a Hispanic Parent/Student Leadership Academy titled “Grooming for Excellence” at the Glenbard Township High School District 87 schools.

“Some of them are living in the shadows,” said Ferrer, who grew up in Puerto Rico. “If they don’t have coaching, even if they have a high GPA, they’re not going to make it.”

Ferrer has found that many Hispanic students do not have the support from home they need to do well in college. Oftentimes, Hispanic parents do not understand English and technology as much as their children do, she said.

By leading these workshops, Ferrer takes on the role of mentor for the students, helping them determine financial aid and scholarship options and preparing them to manage their finances to complete a four-year degree.

For Hispanic students who do complete college degrees, many study subjects that do not lead readily to careers, she said. The Grooming for Excellence academy will provide students with the skills they need to major in an area that is in demand, focusing particularly on helping students to achieve competency in math, reading and writing.

In her work, Ferrer has found that many Hispanic students who are high-achieving and motivated still have a fear of math and do not write at a college level.

A former math teacher herself, Ferrer hopes to eliminate that fear and encourage them to take higher level math classes, such as calculus.

The workshops are open to both students and their parents. The first workshop was held Oct. 23 at Glenbard East High School, and the other three will continue in November, December and April.

For families who complete the academy, students will be eligible for a free ACT math preparation course led by Ferrer.

Between the workshops, students will be expected to complete assignments as part of a project with Ferrer that is expected to be published after the academy.

In addition to Grooming for Excellence, Ferrer has led other workshops at the Glenbard schools and participated in the Glenbard Parent Series Saturday sessions in the past.

Her programs tend to attract many families, and while smaller groups mean more personalized attention, Ferrer will not turn anyone away.

“It’s a privilege to work with her, and our families feel the same way,” said Gilda Ross, the district’s student and community projects coordinator. “Her passion for all kids to achieve is so obvious to them, and there’s a real trust there.”

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