Female student with blue notebook

California Edu-Dreaming

A Central Coast program for low-income Latina high school students helps close the college achievement gap

Along California’s Central Coast, the nonprofit People’s Self-Help Housing (PSHH) helps 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 goes far beyond buildings, extending to an array of programs designed to improve the lives of the people who live in those homes.

This wide-reaching approach to services 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, while more than half of white women do, 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 whatever they need to pursue a degree.

With support from Bank of America, 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 racial 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