Latina Achievement Support, or LAS, is a unique mentoring program serving area high schools to help support Latinx high school students in overcoming systemic barriers to success and bridging the opportunity gap. The program encourages students to reach their academic and personal goals, pursue higher education and explore different career paths. Our LAS Advocates are older Latina women and college students who provide guidance and create weekly programming to help the members of LAS have a space to grow, learn and support one another. For the last three years, the LAS program participants, most of whom are from households with low income, have had a 100% graduation rate for seniors, with 98% pursuing post-secondary education.
Jenny Ornelas, Member of LAS
Latina Achievement Support (LAS) provides a supportive and culturally sensitive approach to meet the needs of Latina students in Boulder County. The program is youth-led by bilingual, college-aged Advocates who work directly with LAS participants to address real-time challenges, such as coping and thriving with at-home learning.
Advocates meet weekly (virtually, or, when appropriate, in person) with LAS students for advice and mentoring to build academic, mental health and leadership skills. Participants build trusting relationships with their Advocates and with each other. Activities during and after school include:
- Academic support and tutoring
- Community involvement and volunteer opportunities
- College prep and school visits
- Field trips
- Life skills workshops on topics ranging from drug and alcohol abuse to personal finance
The COVID-19 crisis presented a new set of challenges for Latina Achievement Support participants, increasing the importance of the program. LAS participants have shared the frustration of being physically isolated from their peers, dealing with lack of privacy at home and not being able to practice English at school when Spanish is the primary language in their households.
To meet these needs, LAS Advocates received additional virtual training about managing stress in a healthy manner, regulating emotions, and improving relationships, so that they could share these skills with LAS participants. By continuing to provide support and peer-to-peer connection virtually, LAS gave participants a crucial emotional and social link. Despite the extra challenges, 100% of 2020 LAS graduating seniors graduated and plan to pursue post-secondary education.
YWCA Boulder County staff members are working closely with local school districts to structure the LAS program to meet the unique circumstances of the 2020-2021 school year.
“I’m an immigrant student, so it’s been hard because you don’t know if you have the same opportunities as other students or if I can go to college and get a degree… So, for me, [LAS is] empowering and supportive just because I’ve gotten to know more about college, how to go to college, [and] what college has to offer for us. That’s really changed my life because I’ve been wanting to go to college since I can remember.
Thank you a lot, a lot [for] the amazing tours that I’ve gone to, amazing field trips that we’ve gone to. I’ve never gotten to do that because I’ve never really been offered those opportunities.” – Elizabeth Merazgordillo, Member of LAS