Excelencia in Education aims to help Latinos succeed in higher education

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The attention has been on K-12, but Excelencia in Education is focused on helping Latino students succeed in higher education through the use of data.

Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education, says the approach over the last few years has been to use data and information to analyze the current state of education for all students, but specifically Latino students. She says she felt the urge to do something after watching D.C. react to the 2000 census which showed how large and expansive the Latino community is, and the government wasn’t ready to engage this community.

Brown says she and Deborah Santiago, chief operating officer and vice president of Excelencia in Education, didn’t see a ready-made, solution-based approach to aid this community. The number of Latinos and people of color who were graduating was lower than they wanted the community to see. Education is the pathway for the community to participate, Brown says.

“In public policy conversations we’ll often be the only people of color in the room talking about the future of the country and what was happening in education,” Santiago says. “We needed to add a Latino voice. We needed to bring attention to the faces of these young people who are not being seen or heard by the people in D.C… We didn’t see a crisis, we saw an opportunity to invest.”

Santiago points out that despite the challenges against them, more and more Latinos were graduating from high school. However, resources available to them to be able to invest in a higher education were far and few in between.

“One of the things that put us on the map was a study that looked at for the first time students participating in federal financial aid programs by race and ethnicity,” Brown says. “What we discovered in 2005 [was] while Latino students were applying for financial aid in the same proportion as other students they got the least amount of aid.”

Brown says the mission of Excelencia in Education is to accelerate Latinos’ success in higher education through research, policy and practice. A program the president is especially proud of is called Examples of Excelencia. It’s an initiative where anyone can look at programs within their communities who have had a positive effect on Latino student success and nominate them to Excelencia in Education. It’s a great way to give those programs more of a spotlight and recognition.

“The purpose of being here is to roll up our sleeves, look at the data, the practice, the leadership practice in each institution and talk among and between us as practitioners,” Santiago says. “We can see how we can learn from each other.”

For more information on Excelencia in Education, visit www.edexcelencia.org.

Sarita Brown: President, Excelencia in Education
Deborah Santiago: Chief Operating Officer and Vice President for Policy, Excelencia in Education

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