Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the contributions and culture that Americans of Hispanic descent have made over the centuries. Pima Community College is planning several events at our campuses, ranging from film screenings to campus displays and musical performances.

I wholeheartedly endorse setting aside time to celebrate the achievements and history of all our fellow citizens. I believe we should recognize that by weaving the threads of our individual histories into the fabric of all of America, acknowledgement of contributions and culture can occur not just for a month, but every day.

As an institution of higher learning, we need to do more than celebrate, however. The commemoration should serve as a call to action to confront the ongoing challenge of improving Hispanic academic achievement. Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the population in the U.S. and in Arizona; they will comprise an ever-larger part of a workforce that needs to upgrade its education and skills if the nation is to bounce back economically.

Hispanics are progressing academically. College enrollment among Hispanic high school graduates is up over the past decade, with 49 percent of young Hispanic high school graduates enrolling in college in 2012, surpassing the rate for white and black graduates. However, Arizona has the sixth-lowest percentage of Hispanic adults with a bachelor’s degree, 10 percent. So clearly there is plenty of room for improvement to help those students who come to us with the goal of transfer to a bachelor’s degree-granting institution.

As a key player in the education pipeline the College is committed to improving access for all students. That is behind our unequivocal support for open admissions, which historically has been the reason for the existence of community colleges.

Our pledge to open access is strengthened by our commitment to student success. We are working to accurately gauge students’ needs and construct effective pathways to certificate and degree completion. In addition, we are planning to redesign remedial education, one that will result in substantially improved methods of helping those students who need our help the most.

By helping everyone, whatever their background or circumstance, progress on their education journey, the College truly can make a difference. Elizabeth Pino’s story, which I chronicled in my All College Day presentation, is one powerful example. A native of Chihuahua, Mexico, Elizabeth has overcome incredible obstacles, including a severe car accident, and through PCC Adult Education is moving toward her goal of a college degree. Successes such as Elizabeth’s, multiplied countless times throughout the College community – those are truly causes for celebration.

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