The third Latino Male Symposium at the University of Texas at Austin on Friday, June 7th at the Student Activity Center drew about 200 attendees to discuss furthering Latino male student success in the state. The symposium was sponsored by Project MALES, which is an initiative of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.
Dr. Victor B. Sáenz, executive director of Project MALES and the newly launched Texas Education Consortium for Male Student Success, began the symposium by presenting three years of research on Latino males in Texas colleges and universities. He said the research demonstrated a dire need for greater high school and higher education completion rates. Using models of successful programs, like Latina-focused organizations like Las Comadres, Con Mi MADRE and Latinitas, Dr. Sáenz encouraged educators to learn from them in encouraging male student success.
Representatives from each of the Latina-focused groups said nurturing a sense of commitment and advocacy within groups serving Latino students, while also continuing to work to create a bridge between Latina and Latino-focused groups, was a good start.
Breakout sessions featuring University of Texas at Austin Project MALES student mentors and mentees offered personal stories of inspiration and success. Students mentors and mentees described the importance of community support and motivation. Daniel Ramirez, a UT student from Dallas, said that he had extended family that had attended Texas A&M, but beyond that, “I didn’t have anyone to motivate me at all. I didn’t even know about the Top 10 percent rule until after I applied to UT,” he said. “I didn’t realize until after freshman year how many of my friends were left behind.” He learned about Project MALES through his fraternity’s listserv and saw it as an opportunity to give back.
Before Dr. Luis Ponjuan, associate professor at Texas A&M University, delivered his keynote, the Hon. Mary González , Texas State Representative, District 75, emphasized the social justice component of the Latino Male Symposium. “We can also be effective and inclusive,” she said. “The work that we do has to have complexity beyond a Band-Aid solution. We only make a difference when we do what we do in intentional, complex ways.”
Dr. Ponjuan reiterated Mary González’ sentiments during the symposium’s keynote address. As a way of moving conversations about male student success forward, he suggested that educators and attendees think more intentionally about how male student success is framed. Instead of using words like “deficit” or “crisis” in descriptions of Latino males in education, researchers could start sharing more positive narratives — like those discussed at the symposium. ”Our research means nothing without practice,” Dr. Ponjuan said. “I don’t have to use hyperbole — the data will tell you: The national education research agenda is the Latino education agenda.”