New Program Promotes Career, College Readiness among Latinx Youth and Families


December 9, 2021, 10:20 am | Laura Sternweis, Kimberly Greder

student with scholarship certificate at Latino Heritage Festival.AMES, Iowa – To reach your goals, you have to move forward, you have to persevere. For Latinx families in Iowa, that means “salir adelante,” particularly in terms of education and their hopes for their children’s future.

This Spanish phrase also provides the perfect name for a new, culturally tailored, research-based and evidence-informed curriculum that promotes career and college readiness among Latinx youth and their families.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach delivers “¡Salir Adelante! Caminos a Nuestro Futuro (Pathways for Our Future)” in partnership with community-based organizations and volunteers. The curriculum affirms and builds upon knowledge, experiences and strengths of Latinx families and connects them to information and resources to reach their goals, according to Kimberly Greder, a professor in human development and family studies and a family wellbeing extension state specialist.

Engaging Latinx families in educational programming

Through previous community-based research and extension programming with Latinx families, Greder and her colleagues learned strategies to specifically address the interests of Latinx families and effectively engage them in educational programming.

“The ¡Salir Adelante! curriculum was informed by direct research with Latinx families in Iowa. We conducted individual and focus group interviews with fathers, mothers and youth, and surveyed over 1,000 Latinx youth and parents who had previously participated in extension education,” Greder said.

During interviews, Latinx parents discussed the challenges they faced in helping their children reach their education goals. However, they also shared their hopes that their middle-school-age children would complete high school, move toward more education or a career, and “salir adelante.” Since the phrase resonated with the families, it was an appropriate choice for naming the new curriculum, Greder explained.

¡Salir Adelante! curriculum.The curriculum is shared with participating Latinx families during a six-week program. ISU Extension and Outreach human sciences, 4-H and county staff and local organizations bring families together within a community for weekly sessions. Each session begins with a shared meal and conversation about a “dicho” or saying that is familiar to the families. The meaning of the dicho is then linked to the focus of the session and to the overall purpose of ¡Salir Adelante! The discussion focuses on strengthening factors that are known to help youth succeed academically and pursue education and training beyond high school via college, certification programs, apprenticeships and other opportunities.

The program addresses topics important to families; respects and honors cultural values; builds on knowledge, skills and experiences of families; and engages the whole family, Greder said. The sessions are delivered in Spanish and English as preferred by the families and provide a comfortable, safe environment where they can learn and connect with professionals, including Latinx leaders in the community, and school personnel.

¡Salir Adelante! also introduces families to ISU Extension and Outreach through a topic they care about – the future of their youth, in a way they desire – learning together as a family. Lorena Dorado-Robles, 4-H youth program specialist, was part of the curriculum development team and is helping to link Latinx youth who participate in ¡Salir Adelante! to opportunities to strengthen their life skills and civic engagement and leadership skills via 4-H.

Collaborating with community partners

Community partners are essential to the program’s success, Greder continued. Partners collaborate with ISU Extension and Outreach to facilitate the program in their communities, as well as recruit families to the program, recruit volunteers and other organizations to join the effort, and help to identify and secure funding to implement the program. Partners also work with extension professionals to plan and implement follow-up activities, such as college visits with families who participate in ¡Salir Adelante!, and family events to further address interests and needs of the families and build relationships with them.

ISU Extension and Outreach trains teams of extension educators and community partners to facilitate ¡Salir Adelante! locally. Sixty extension educators and community partners already have been trained and additional trainings are planned. Anyone interested in bringing the program to Latinx families in their community may contact Greder at kgreder@iastate.edu or Rosa Gonzalez, human sciences specialist in family wellbeing, at rdegonza@iastate.edu, for more information.

Shareable photos

  • Carlos Merlos-Rojas at Latino Heritage Festival: In September 2021, Carlos Merlos-Rojas (holding his certificate) was awarded a scholarship from Iowa’s Latino Heritage Festival. Currently he is studying food science at Iowa State University. Six years ago as a middle school student he participated in ISU Extension and Outreach programming with his family, which put him on the path to higher education and a career.
  • ¡Salir Adelante! curriculum
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