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"This conference represents a turning point experience for Latino education," said Dr.
Gus Reyes, Director of the Hispanic Education Initiative/Affinity Ministries for the Baptist General Convention of
Texas and COO of NHCLC. "It raises the bar for what we are able to achieve through executive leaders and presidents of universities, academics and pastors." Reyes hoped that the conference would "provide tools and a biblical basis as we work together to minimize the dropout rate in our communities."
Considering that Latinos represent 15.1 percent of the total population, but make up 38.6 percent of all college dropouts, the Summit called for closer cooperation between churches and universities in reducing the college dropout rate. Solutions discussed included a proposal for Hispanic centers at universities to assist students in adjusting to the college campus environment – academically, culturally and socially.
Reyes presented a study from the Barna Group discerning that 84 percent of Hispanics in America self-identify with the Christian faith. With Hispanic Americans becoming an increasingly dominant force in shaping Christianity across the nation, Reyes asserted that it is imperative to understand the faith, values and priorities of this group.
The ethnically diverse group of attendees heard presentations from nationally prominent speakers about challenges facing not only students, but also educators. In addition to Reyes, these included Dr.
Carlos Campo, former President of
Regent University and Chair of The Alliance for Hispanic Education; Dr.
Jesse Miranda, NHCLC Emeritus CEO and Founder of the Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership;
Harold Smith, President and CEO of Christianity Today;
Mike Haley, Program Director for Focus on the Family's Raising Highly Capable Kids; and
Jesse Rincones, Executive Director of the Hispanic Baptist Convention of
Speakers also examined the challenges Hispanic students face in the American education system. A presentation from College Board representatives
Steven Colon and
Kathleen Porter Magee outlined statistics about the high percentages of Hispanic high school students whose 10th and 11th grade PSAT scores indicate that they are capable of doing Advanced Placement work, but who often do not have access to such courses. Additionally, Latino students frequently face unnecessary language barriers that complicate their comprehension of test material.
"Our hope is to give all students, but particularly Latino students, access to the language of power — to the academic vocabulary students need," Magee said. She further explained that the SAT test and traditional literature textbooks use "esoteric" vocabulary, words that are "perfectly good to know" but "are not words that our children need to master to prepare for the rigors of college and careers."