Female student with blue notebook

Aiming for college – with a helping hand

A program for low-income Latina high school students in California’s Central Coast is designed to close the educational achievement gap

Along California’s Central Coast, the nonprofit People’s Self-Help Housing (PSHH) began as a way to help farmworkers, low-income families, seniors, veterans and other residents find a home, be it an affordable rental or a house to own. But the organization’s mission now extends to an array of programs designed to improve the lives of the people who live in those homes.

This includes a focus on education, with K-12 programs offered at 10 on-site learning centers. As part of that, PSHH is tackling a long-standing problem in the largely Hispanic/Latino community it serves: the college achievement gap, especially among women.

Just 26% of Latinas have college degrees, compared with more than half of white women, according to the Education Trust.footnote1 The reasons can include everything from a lack of confidence and dueling family responsibilities to discrimination, language barriers and lack of economic resources.footnote2 With a program called CELEBRE (College Enrollment for Latinas Entering Bright Rewarding Educations), PSHH is inspiring Latina high school students to aim for college — and equipping them with the resources they need to pursue a degree.

CELEBRE assists students with everything from selecting a college and filling out applications to enrolling and financing the cost. The students, most of whom will be first-generation college grads, are assigned mentors to guide them along the way. During college, support continues with teleconferences throughout the academic year and in-person check-ins during academic breaks. Parents are also part the process so that they can understand what’s ahead on the educational journey — and help prepare their daughters for a bright future. Support for this program is part of Bank of America’s $1.25 billion, five-year commitment to advance equality and economic opportunity.

Listening to Latinas: Barriers to High School Graduation,” The National Women's Law Center and Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, 2009