Hermanos inspire Latino students to succeed in school

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO — Roughly 20 South San Francisco High School students have new “brothers” this year through a Skyline College program that tries to provide positive role models to young Latino males.

The first-year program attempts to increase educational opportunities for the students by addressing their academic, psychological and social needs through mentoring and academic support.

The 20 South San Francisco High School students have been meeting every Monday and Wednesday after school this year since the President’s Innovation Fund from Skyline ponied up $10,000 to start the program.

“We’ve focused on their motivation, their values, and getting them to realize there needs to be some change in their life,” program coordinator Luis Escobar said.

“If they know what they need to overcome, then they can come up with some strategies to overcome those obstacles,” Escobar said.

Such obstacles include societal stereotypes and familial expectations, as some Hispanic males in school aren’t expected to graduate, much less go on to college because nobody expects them to. And no one pushes them to, he added, noting that those obstacles limit the resources and information available to the students.

“These students are very aware, and they feel sometimes that the school system has low expectations for them,” Escobar said. “That reduces their expectations.”

All the students taking part in the “Hermanos” program except for one have a sub-2.0 grade-point average. The program brings together different influences — the educational system, the families and the other Hermanos students — to push a student to succeed.

“We’re promoting educational achievement and positive personal development,” Skyline College’s director of marketing, Sandy Irber said. “The whole point is to help them bridge the gap into college.”

“There’s a real need tohelp Latino students foster their ability to think of college as an achievable goal,” she said.

According to statistics with the California Department of Education, three percent of Hispanic students in San Mateo County — 250 students, the most of any ethnic group in the county — dropped out during the 2004-2005 school year. They made up 26.4 percent of the county’s graduates during the same year.

At South San Francisco High School, Hispanic students made up 43.7 percent of the 1,567 students in 2005-2006. In 2004-2005, according to California Department of Education statistics, 1.5 percent of Hispanic students at the school — 10 of the 654 enrolled in the high school — dropped out during the school year. They made up 33.6 percent of the school’s graduates during the same year.

dsmith@examiner.com

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