Student-teacher relationships, mentorship and local definitions of knowledge are critical to engaging and placing Latino and African American students on a pathway to academic and community success.
Those were the findings of Cal State San Bernardino professor Louie Rodriguez and a team of CSUSB doctoral students and alumni, whose research is captured in “Sowing Seeds of Hope in the Context of Concentrated Poverty: Connecting the K-20 Pipeline for Historically Marginalized Students in the Inland Empire.”
Their combined research was conducted in response to the “leaking educational pipeline” for low-income students of color in the Inland Empire.
“Our research indicates that many students either drop out or are pushed out of the system in their early schooling,” said Rodriguez, who is both a Harvard and CSUSB alumnus, an associate professor of educational leadership and curriculum and co-director of the university’s educational leadership doctoral program.
The CSUSB team, consisting of Rodriguez, CSUSB alumni Gustavo Chamorro and Aja Henriquez, both 2012 educational doctoral graduates; and doctoral students Sonya Scott and Cecilia Ornelas, presented its research findings in response to the Inland Empire’s crisis in educational achievement at the 11th Annual Alumni of Color Conference at the Harvard Graduate School of Education last month. The conference gathered Harvard alumni back to campus to share their work, connect with current graduate students and build stronger connections across members of the education community.
Rodriguez also heads the project, “Participatory Research Advocating for Excellence in Schools in the Inland Empire.”
“Far too many educational reforms are born outside of our local public schools,” said Rodriguez. “The Excellence Campaigns, as part of The PRAXIS Project’s overall strategy, intend to stimulate local change driven by local students, teachers, leaders and community stakeholders.
“We quickly learned that not only was our collective work relevant, but our experiences in the Inland Empire allowed us to significantly contribute to the dialogue at Harvard. This experience epitomizes what it takes to develop as leaders and serve our communities responsibly and with a commitment to equity.”
Chamorro is a three-time alumnus of CSUSB, earning a doctoral in educational leadership in June 2012 and both a master and bachelor degrees in business administration. An administrator with the Rancho Santiago Community College district, he said he was invigorated and inspired by the passion and dedication of both the presenters and the participants.
“I saw many young people who are already embarking on their educational journey,” said Chamorro, “and learned that anyone, including a young kid from east Oakland, can make it to Harvard if they are provided with the right mentorship and support.”
Henriquez also earned her educational doctoral degree in 2012 from CSUSB as well as a master’s in English and a master’s of fine arts in creative writing. Currently a writing instructor at Crafton Community College in Yucaipa, Henriquez presented her dissertation findings on the critical voices of low-income students of color in the community college setting.
“Being at AOCC alerted me … that the Inland Empire needs a more organized effort to coordinate research-practitioners if we are to conquer the inequitable educational opportunities available to students of color in this region,” said Henriquez.
Scott, a CSUSB doctoral student in educational leadership who successfully defended her dissertation in February, will graduate with an Ed.D. this June. She earned a bachelor’s in behavioral science and a master’s in education from Cal Poly Pomona. An educator for 12 years, Scott now teaches mild-moderate special day classes.
Ornelas is a second-year doctoral student in CSUSB’s educational leadership program where she also earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature. She earned a master’s degree in linguistics from Cal State Long Beach and currently teaches English in a private college. Her primary research interests lie in Latino college students and their barriers to higher education.
For more information about Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Public Affairs at (909) 537-5007 and visit news.csusb.edu.