My name is Oscar Cerna, and I’m an Evaluation Research Associate at MDRC in Oakland, CA. At the risk of stating the obvious, the population of Latinx students attending college will continue to grow and diversify. Many higher education institutions have recognized this demographic shift and know they must equally increase their attention and resources to providing culturally responsive student supports that help meet the needs of their growing Latinx student population. One of the promising approaches is to employ and train seasoned Latinx college students as peer leaders to help new students get acclimated to college.
- Latinx peer leaders are typically upper-level students who have successfully completed coursework and are very familiar with campus services.
- They can serve in a variety of positions, including as campus peer mentors, supplemental instructors or tutors, and outreach ambassadors in the local community.
- Effective peer leaders can impart recently relatable life experiences both in and out of class, especially to first generation students still learning to make the transition to college.
- Research on Latinx peer leaders in college suggest that they are positive role models to new students, particularly those that share common characteristics or academic pursuits.
- They help other students celebrate their early academic successes, as well as modeling behaviors that reflect self-respect, cultural pride and community building.
- They are especially important in colleges that significantly lack Latinx instructors or administrators that may not reflect the diversity of their student bodies.
- Peer leaders serve as important conduits between students and faculty or staff that may not understand the cultural foundations of learning necessary for Latinx students to experience success.
- Latinx peer leader candidates can be recruited
from a variety of institutional departments, clubs and programs, including:
- Campus honors programs
- Campus multicultural centers
- Latinx student-led organizations such as MeChA or LULAC Scholars.
- Current participants or alumni from special support programs, such as the Extended Opportunities Programs and Services or Puente programs.
- Communication between faculty, academic advisors and other student service departments may that can identify prospective Latinx peer leaders.
- Continuamos Juntos: Lessons on Advancing Latino Success from California’s LATIDO Project
- Achieving the Dream: Latino Student Mentoring Programs
- Cengage: Creating A Successful Peer Mentoring Program
- Peer Mentoring: The Project for New Mexico Graduates of Color
To become truly culturally-responsive to the growing Latinx college student population, colleges can utilize successful Latinx student leaders who not only benefit from being successful in college, but that can serve as key institutional agents for their fellow Latinx peers.
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