• June 18th, 2024
  • Tuesday, 09:34:23 AM

Supporting Higher Education in the Chicano Community 

In March, the Denver Public School District (DPS) released a report called the La Raza Report, which is a research project that sets up a commitment of change for the Latino community in DPS. (Photo: Adobe Stock)


By Hilary Olivares

Posted May 16, 2024


From the history told in schools, to the stories we hear from our families, education for the Chicano community has opened up many opportunities that have sparked conversations on how important it is to pursue higher education. For many years, anyone of Chicano descent has


been set back by mindsets and the voices of those who continue to tear down anyone of color. It is not only important that we recognize the population of those who are Chicano, but the things that can be accomplished by such a powerful community.


In the 1960’s a movement brought upon the Chicano community was started to implement new change and to end discrimination; known as the Chicano Movement or El Movimiento, César Chávez, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, Dolores Huerta, Rosalio Muñoz, and many other activists, came together to embrace a Chicano/a identity allowing for better work and education. The history being told in schools was not concise and lacked the proper teaching on the upbringing of Mexican-American people. In today’s world, we are often given misinformation which allows for interpretation that causes a lot of controversy. It’s significant that we have proper educators to expand on history and how Chicano history has had a huge impact on the world. Currently, school districts are lacking educators of color.


It’s important to note that schools with diverse teachers can bring a positive outcome on the ways students learn and perform academically, which can lead students of color to pursue higher education.


I’ve always been inspired by people who used their education to make a better place and I believe in that.”
Dr. Nicki Gonzales, Regis University


In March, the Denver Public School District  (DPS) released a report called the La Raza Report, which is a research project that sets up a commitment of change for the Latino community in DPS. The report essentially found that there needed to be more resources for students to feel like they belong and to learn more about their cultures. With about 200 plus pages, part of the report focuses on the Historical Analysis and Literature Review and states: “A key to understanding the barriers for Latino students and their families is to identify and understand historical events and trends – e.g., racial discrimination, redlining, segregation, etc. –impacting them. For example, what was the impact of redlining on the Latino community, and what was and has been the impact of segregation on educational opportunities for Latino students?”


Ultimately, the report was designed to make students, families, and even staff within the DPS district who are of Latino/a, Chicano/a, Hispanic, and Mexican descents, to feel motivated to pursue an education where they can learn more about their own history and bring attention to a widely spread culture that makes up most of Denver Public Schools.


In some Latino households, there is this belief that you don’t need to pursue higher education; parents of children most likely never attended college or may have never graduated high school. Because of this, we see less students of Chicano/a background attending college. Pursuing higher education can benefit students in so many ways. Diversity is the change our ancestors fought for in order to ensure that future generations could grow and show the privilege that we are just as capable of succeeding like them.


Currently, there are 13 Hispanic Serving Institutions or HSI’s in Colorado, and 353 across the U.S., according to the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. Much like the La Raza Report, HSI was given to institutions that have a 25% student population that identifies as Hispanic or Latino. The mission is to encourage first generation, Latiné/Hispanic students, to strive towards higher education.


Regis University recently received their Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) status, acknowledging ways for a more diverse institution and that most students attending the University are Hispanic.


Dr. Nicki Gonzales, a history professor, Vice Provost for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence at Regis University, and Colorado State Historian, shared insight on her love for education, why education is important, and how the HSI status can help benefit the university. “Here at Regis, I’ve been able to combine both my love for history and my love of teaching in education in ways that I never imagined would be available to me. I get to work with young people, and I also get to work on changing the institution to make it more welcoming to people that it was not created for,” explained Gonzales. “Education is something that you’ll have forever. It’s an investment. It’s kind of a gateway to I think a more fulfilling and meaningful life, not saying you can’t have a meaningful life without education, but it just opens up; like we all grow up in these little shells and then it just cracks those wide open and we see the world differently. I’ve always been inspired by people who used their education to make a better place and I believe in that.”


Gonzales also believes an institution can always be more inclusive. “Yes, we did just get our HSI status about a year ago and it is a move in the right direction. It’s an indication that we’re a trusted institution among the Hispanic or Latinx community. Families trust us, communities trust us to educate their young, their youth and I think that we are in a constant process of trying to become an institution that really deserves to be called an HSI.” Gonzales added. “At the core is this notion in ‘serving-ness’ and what it truly means to serve Latinx students rather than just enroll them, but what does it mean to truly serve them? That means that we need to be a culturally validating place where people feel included, like they belong, and we need to include families and communities.”


The creation of DPS’s La Raza Report and having HSI’s, can make the Chicano community feel like they’re in a more welcoming place. As we look further into the upbringing of Chicanos and higher education, there needs to be a way to encourage the youth to continue their education. There can always be more diversity on our education boards and within our elected officials to create more change that was intended to happen.


This article is part of a series that will take an in-depth look at the DPS La Raza Report, and explore how it reveals key insights into the state of education, including issues such as diversity, equity, access, and inclusion.


Hillary Olivares is an Independent Reporter for The Weekly Issue/El Semanario.