2,500 Texas Baptist Hispanic Youth Drop Out of High School since 2005

How is that for a headline? The Texas High School Drop-Out Rate for Hispanics is 50%. If the 10,000 youth are Texas Baptist Hispanic Churches is evenly distributed across grades 7th through 12th, we would have about 1,666 Hispanic youth per grade. In the last three years three classes of high school seniors, nearly 5,000 Hispanic Baptist Youth, have had an opportunity to graduate from high school. But only 50% actually did. That means approximately 2,500 Hispanic Baptist Youth dropped out of high school since 2005 if the numbers for this demographic group follow state trends. I guess we could celebrate that 400 of the 5,000 listed above will graduate from college with a BA degree. But what about the other 4,600 who have some college, high school diplomas or no high school education at all? What does their economic future look like? One of my friends and colleagues reminded me of a question I posed once: Jesus said he came to preach good news to the poor so what would good news look like for Texas Baptist Hispanic Youth who face a future of poverty?

The year was 2005 and I was serving as the president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, one of the highest honors of my life and ministry. During that year I was encouraged, along with Dr. Alcides Guajardo, President of the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas to jointly appoint a Hispanic Education Task Force that was to be study the Hispanic Baptist High School Drop-Out Issue. We appointed a blue ribbon committee with top educators from across the state. The committee was convened and went to work. Momentum wavered and management of the process was so mishandled by BGCT staff that committee members began to wonder what the purpose of the task force was. Two more years went by with occasional meetings, new presidents were elected, and a report was produced and a solution offered to the BGCT Executive Board: Hire a consultant to work on this issue full time. I am deeply grateful to each of the Task Force Members and the Chair who trusted the process and who devoted personal time to reflect and think strategically about this issue.

While I think that is a good first step, three academic school years have passed and 2,500 Texas Baptist Hispanic Youth have dropped out of High School. Due to BGCT budget shortfalls, this position has not been filled. To say that this is frustrating and disappointing is to grossly understate my sentiments on this topic. I offer my personal apology to these students and their parents and invite all Texas Baptists to pledge that we will do something about this situation so that students of all cultural backgrounds will have tangible support to finish high school and have the opportunity to go to college.

The Buckner essence statement is to build families and to promote self-sufficiency. That means we are interested in the economic sustainability of children and families right here in Texas. What kind of future will Hispanic dads and moms have to achieve self sufficiency when they face a future of minimum wage income? Would Jesus care about this? What would good news to the poor look like for 50% of our own Texas Baptist Hispanic Youth?

How about this headline? “Texas Baptists achieve a 90% Hispanic High School Completion Rate.” Or how about this one? “Texas Baptist Champion Zero Tolerance Stance on High School Drop Out Issue?”

We have 9 accredited universities who want and need Hispanic Baptist Youth to enroll in their schools. What is their role in solving this issue? We have 5,500 congregations and 112 associations who bring enormous resources to the table to address this issue. What will be their role? Four major human welfare agencies, including Buckner, have a role in impacting this problem. What will be their role?

I celebrate the fact that our universities are enrolling more Hispanics each year. However, as we approach the season of commencement exercises, I am reminded that another 833 of our own youth are shut out of an economic system due to their inability to finish high school. Buckner’s theme this year is “Go Somewhere, Be a Voice, Do Something.” The theme for the BGCT is “Texas Hope 2010: Prayer. Care. Share.” What should we do to offer hope to our youth?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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28 thoughts on “2,500 Texas Baptist Hispanic Youth Drop Out of High School since 2005

  1. Thanks for writing about this, Albert. Our failure to make meaningful progress in keeping Hispanic students in school is a huge disappointment.
    I remember so well when you and Alcides Guajardo appointed the Hispanic Education Task Force. The need is so great, and the promise was so enormous. Texas Baptists could have made a huge impact if we had rallied our churches and institutions around two programs that already were in existence when this initiative began. In fact, we STILL can make a difference if we were to replicate them statewide:
    • Kids Hope USA. Buckner and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship are involved in this national, multi-denomination program to put Christians in schools for one hour each week, mentoring at-risk children, particularly helping them learn to read. While I realize some of our Baptist General Convention of Texas churches don’t want to associate with CBF, they don’t have to be CBF-cozy to be Kids Hope churches. This program transcends denominations, let alone sub-groups within denominations. Besides, aren’t children worth the effort to lay aside denominational difference?
    • LEAF (Learning English Among Friends). This wonderful program has been developed by Baylor University’s schools of Education and Social Work. It’s similar in some respect to Kids Hope, but it also focuses on the parents of children at risk of dropping out. Specifically, it helps Hispanic parents not only to learn English, but also to understand how our education system works—the resources available to them, the reality that children have homework and are expected to learn at home as well as school, the importance of reading for developing young minds, etc. It’s a tremendous program that has made a significant impact on the schools in Waco. And, with promotion and training, it could be replicated statewide, and beyond.
    I hope and pray your call to action will be heard and will resonate in the hearts of Texas Baptists for the benefit of Hispanic students and the glory of God.

  2. The dropout problem sends ripples throughout our society, and it involves all of us. Thanks for writing about this, Albert, and I urge you to continue to push to make a difference in this area. I believe the best difference we can make is to actually become a mentor to one or more of these at-risk students. While we wait for organizations like the BGCT or others to appoint or hire someone, we can simply volunteer as a mentor. The programs that Marv mentions and others like Communities in Schools are already in place and are already tackling the issue head-on. There’s no need to recreate the wheel. Statistics like you cite should move everyone to action…today.

  3. Marv, thanks for your affirmation. Sometimes frustration and dissappointment leads to action. I Hope that is the case for us. One of the first actions is to enhance what we already have in place like KidsHope and LEAF. Thanks for writing about this issue. Thanks for your prophetic voice. Keep writing and speaking.

  4. Gilbert, great to hear from you. You are so right. Progress is being made in one on one settings. Buckner has 40+ churches doing the Kids Hope USA program. Lives are being changed right now. The problem is so complex that we need a myriad of solutions. I will continue to work with Buckner and BGCT to see if we can move the ball down the field. Our future hangs in the balance as a Baptist family and our youth need hope. We need them as leaders. Thanks for your encouragement. Give my regards to Beyla.

  5. Thank you for writing about this topic. I know there are numerous factors that impact the drop-out rate but certainly we as Texas Baptists can do something to about this looming socio-economic disaster. I believe, however, that we need to attack this problem on multiple fronts. Here are some ideas, in my humble opinion:
    Use the power of the pulpit and the church to bring this issue to forefront of every Texas Baptist’s mind. I suggest a formal prayer time for our churches. How’s Sunday morning, June 1, 2008? Imagine the power of Texas Baptists praying in concert about this problem and the solutions that God will provide us!
    Next, the issue needs to be the subject of on-going sermons, Sunday school lessons, G.A.s, R.A.s, youth classes, and cell groups. It’s not just an educational issue- it is an important moral issue as well. We preach to our children about abstinence, staying away from drugs, and righteous living. It is now time to preach and teach parents and children about the value of education and give them the biblical principles to back it up. Surely, we have leaders that could develop a Sunday school curriculum and devotionals on this issue.
    Use the synergy of Baptist organizations. To borrow some phrases, “Go. Be. Do.” together and bring Texas Hope. Imagine a joint Buckner and BGCT educational mission trip and on-going educational mission work to troubled schools in Texas! Think about the impact of Literacy ConneXus and Kid’s Hope USA working together from the beginning with a BGCT church start in Houston, Texas.
    Also, integrate the programs that Marv mentioned into the mission of the churches not yet participating. This can be done by raising the awareness of the problems and the potential solutions through the activities previously mentioned. I know this has been done in the past, but future themes of Congreso, Dimensión Juvenil, or other Texas Baptist youth meetings need to focus on the issue.
    Finally, some introspection is needed. As a parent, I know that it is hard to stay active in your child’s school and PTA. Do I really need to grab that Starbucks before work or could I take a few minutes and talk to my child’s teacher about her academic progress? Some of us may not have attained a GED or may be only few hours short of completing a degree. What better example to our children than to invest in our education as well?
    The problem is severe. The solution begins with us.

  6. I have a little frustration, but also great hope.
    I went about establishing KidsHope in my church. However, we couldn’t get enough people together to actually do it. Ok, in all honesty, I haven’t been able to get anyone else to mention. A couple of guys said they might be interested, but continued health problems have kept them from any actual commitment.
    However, there is hope! After 4 years of unsuccessful attempts of building relationships with school officials, year 5 brought me together with a very open elementary school principal. I told him I would like to volunteer wherever he needs me. First word out of his mouth was, “mentor.”
    So, I’ve been mentoring a Hispanic 3rd grader for about a year now. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve no training. There have been other challenges, and seemingly little progress. But then again, it isn’t about what I see during my 1 hour with him. It is about how he lives later on. That is something I will never see. All I can do is pray that the Lord will be faithful in his life, bringing fruit from the seeds that are planted.
    I’ve never heard of LEAF, nor ConneXus. I appreciate those that mentioned them. I look forward to finding the varied ways that we can reach our youth and their families.
    Tim

  7. Bro. Richard, thanks for your response. You are correct that the issue is severe and the solutions begin with us. But we are not alone, as you stated, we have the universities, the churches, the associations, and human welfare agencies to bring together to do something about it. My concern is that the problem is not going away. State Demographer Steve Murdock as documented the looming shift in population and has pointed to the Hispanic community for growth and also has a major concern about the under-education of Hispanic youth. We are headed for an economic disaster for them and us and more problematic social concerns that we have seen in a generation. You are also correct in stating that we have to address this issue on multiple fronts. Staying engaged with our own children and their education is priority one. Next, we look to see what we can do for the community.

  8. Tim, at least your tried something. You did something. Hats off to you for not giving up. You are commended for asking how you can serve. You are making a difference without KidsHope. Maybe folks around you will catch on. This problem is our problem. Together we will find solutions. Keep pressing on and investing in that one child’s life. That is one solution that will make a difference.

  9. Hear, Hear Dr.Reyes! As a former school social worker in a dominant Hispanic student population (97%)of a public elementary school in San Antonio, teachers & parents would cry when I provided a visual illustration of the drop out rates for Latinos. At the beginning of the school year in the first parent meetings, I would line up 10 little Kindergarteners & sit half of them down to show that according to current stats of the Latino drop out rate, half of our school would not graduate from the local high school. So that this posting is not to “wordy” & leaving out a lot of my parent “speech” , I basically urged them to do something now to prevent this by attending parent-teacher conferences, read to their child at home, get them to bed early, etc. We would have great attendance & participation by the parents thruout the year because they got it! Even more so, the church can get it!!
    Now as a current Buckner staff member & with our partnership at the Baptist University of the Americas, we are in a collaboration with Communities In School using the KidsHope model piece (mentor/prayer partner) & anywhere from 20 – 40 students are involved with the elementary & high school just across the street. In turn, BUA students are challenged to do “likewise” by enlisting their local congregations to connect with their local public schools. BUA President Maciel vows to have 50+ next year with a Fall kick-off “BUA 5K run” highlighting the need to be involved in the local schools. BUA, Buckner, &
    Communities In School are “GOing”, “DOing” Something & “BEing” the presence of Christ in their community.

  10. WOW! What a prophetic word, Al, and one that really challenges all of us to follow yours and and Buckner’s example.
    I’m incredibly proud of members of the church that Linda & I copastor, Bill Harrod Memorial Baptist Church. A few of years ago Esequiel Rosas, a layperson in our congregation decided that he had a call to see our young people get the same message he got as a young adult– that he could get a college education. Esequiel had no clue he would do anything more than manual labor until a coworker of his le dio concientizacion- raised his awareness and put another vision in his heart. Now he works as a professional in the banking business and is actively working to help our kids catch a vision of a better life.
    Because of Esequiel’s efforts, along with youth teacher Andie Garcia, Julie Vazquez and our Minister of youth Richard Shipley, our youth program has spotlighted young members who graduate from high school and enter college and has worked adult-to-kid to encourage teens to graduate.
    As proud as I am of what churches, agencies and individuals are doing, I don’t really think this issue or a dozen other related inequities will be solved only by individual or small group action. That’s the obvious foundation, but it won’t be enough without more than one person pushing the agenda and calling Texas Baptists to genuine accountability.
    Thanks for leading the way in speaking out. Your courage and your focus is lighting fires and my prayer is that the rest of us will respond to stand with you.

  11. Please continue writing with such zest and passion!
    It’s very informational to hear of the individual and collaborative efforts that are being made. We are clearly not alone or sitting still!
    Now, can we move beyond this stage and truly defy ourselves to be the World Changers He has called us to be?!
    The issue we see before us is beyond critical – if there is ever such a thing.
    It is our time to move beyond complacency with the current approaches, for it is clear that these have been a tremendous blessing for the lives we have touched and a fragrant offering to our Lord – but yet, there is much more to be done and not yet enough!
    Moving beyond band-aids and towards the creative multi-faceted structure and approach that such a severe devastation deserves, is where we need to impulse ourselves as ONE BODY.
    Not only are we hurting ourselves socially and economically, we are hurting in deeper levels. Where are the young Hispanic Christian leaders that are rising up to represent the King of Glory before the rulers of this earth?
    He has entrusted us as leaders, and inundated us with unique abilities and a common burden and love for Him and for our young people. What if we dared to work in unison and create a structure that aggressively attacks this issue at all its levels? It is a complex matter, but He has already bestowed upon us all that we need to create effective solutions, and why not, to even create a model of work that can be replicated Nation-wide, so that His name will be heard loud and clear as the redeemer who can truly transform.

  12. Patty, Richard Munoz echos what you are saying in his comments. It is all about collaboration. The problems are too great for us to try something on our own. We need to bring together the resources at our disposal. Somehow we need to connect with local schools to. BUA and Buckner are already doing something to help. I know that Hardin Simmons has a similiar program. Wayland has a great track record for enrolling Hispanics, and Howard Payne has a legacy of attracting Hispanics through Dr. Rivas’ imprint. Richard mentioned a collaboration between BGCT and Buckner as an example. That is exactly what we need to do.

  13. Mark, thanks for your note. You are right on point. We have to attach this issue from both micro and macro perspectives. We could raise examples of what your church is doing to encourage other churches to do the same and change one life at a time. At the same time we might raise a higher vision to agencies and institutions to connect and make a difference. Richard mentioned mission trips to elementary schools and public scholls. We need to connect with what Abel Lopez is doing. See my post for May 14th. The point is we need to work together and we need at least one person, fulltime looking at these opportunities and challenging both churches and our Baptist family.

  14. Elizabeth, thanks for your comments. We also need to pray that the Lord would give us all wisdom for the best possible plan of action. We need everyone’s ideas, creativity, energy, and focus to make a difference.

  15. Albert, I wish that guys like you, Sergio, and etc. could meet with my guy. I think it could be an encouragement to see Hispanic men that are successful.
    Tim

  16. Tim, you are right on target. Edwin Hernandez’ book Reconstructing the Sacred Tower says that the most stabilizing force in a Hispanic community is the local church and the most stabilizing icon is the Hispanic pastor because they tend to have more education than most people in the community and are seen as leaders. I would love to meet this young man you are referring to. Another option is to connect him with youth events at Iglesia Bautista Getsemani where Julio Guarneri is the pastor. The church is in Fort Worth. Let me know if you want more information. My email is areyes@buckner.org

  17. Thank you Bro. Tim for making the first suggestion as to “taking the next step of action”. Let’s meet and commit!
    We already have what we need – God has provided us with the tools for this battle.
    There is an array of Hispanic men & women who are “successful” due to their courage in pursuing careers and education, but further more, because we love the Lord and those He loves. Soldiers ready for battle! Let’s meet and take the efforts, ideas, creativity and passion to fuse into a powerful solution!
    With this forum we have established and awareness that this is a micro & micro, multifaceted issue to confront, which to be effective requires a team of servants FOCUSED on this challenge and joining all available forces (individual volunteers, Churches, leaders, organizations, schools, government, businesses, etc.) to gain ground!
    We are talking about changing the worldview of these families, communities, and generations… About affecting millions of lives and radically infusing a higher vision- a Kingdom vision of redemption. It affects parents, grandparents, children, teens, young people, leaders, Pastors, schools, Churches, organizations, media, government, etc. It takes the strongest force of influence we have – our Churches – to make momentum and initiate the revolution.
    I strongly believe that if we establish a framework and strategy that is driven by our Churches on the battlefront and engulfs organizations, individuals and education Institutions – we can start the sure steps forward which will gain momentum and make the substantial impact that is required to raise higher awareness and unite us in generating a common focus. United, we can lead the change. Each Church, each individual leader, each educational Institution and each organization joining their individual efforts to multiply and thus acquire higher returns on their investments. In 10 years, our panorama having been drastically altered and people wondering who is this God we serve who can defy trends, statistics and chains of bondage.
    TOGETHER WE CAN FAN THE SPARKS, AND TURN THEM INTO A BLAZE!

  18. I know about Julio’s church. I’ve even been there once. 🙂 Also, I think that Julio is just about one of the best guys I’ve met since coming to Fort Worth. However, part of my agreement in mentoring is to not talk about church stuff. I believe that I would be breaking that agreement if I recommended Julio’s church to him, inside of the mentoring time. Man, but I would love for Julio to meet him and his family.
    Ms. Tamez,
    If you got ideas, I’m willing to listen and try something. My email is: tdahl@fbclakeworth.org

  19. Excellent conversation. Thanks for keeping it on the front page Albert. I do believe we can make a difference at the local church level. Our experience at Getsemani is at least a 90% High School graduation rate and perhaps an 75% college graduation rate, many of whom have gone on to graduate school and continue to serve in Hispanic churches and in the denomination. I believe that local Hispanic churches will reflect higher completion stats for their youth. Research on this would be interesting as well as the positive influences of churches, congreso, campamento and other things on these students. For us, Congreso and Campamento have been good encouragers to our students. Additionally, DBU has been a true servant institution to our Hispanic students and has really reached out to them. We value education and we communicate it in many ways. We are involved in Kidshope USA at Cesar Chavez primary and believe we are making a difference there. We have a scholarship committee that attempts to affirm and encourage students. I know we can do more but we are grateful for the fruit of what is already being done. I do agree with Albert that BGCT and the other Baptist institutions need to step up to the plate more aggressively if we’re going to turn this thing around.
    Thanks everyone for your helpful comments. Let’s keep the conversation going and let’s roll up our sleeves about this.

  20. By the way, please rejoice with us today, Sunday 18th “Graduate Sunday” at our church, as we honor 6 High School graduates, 2 college graduates and 2 who have finished their medical residency! Praise God, there is hope for the future!

  21. Pastor Julio!
    Thank you very much for sharing the example of what you and your Church are doing!
    This is indeed a vivid example of the reality we can reach as Hispanic community! The Lord has bestowed His power upon His Church!
    We have seen as well in our Church in Tyler that God has worked to break this yoke of bondage! All teens are graduating from High School and are attending a University, College or trade school. We are now seeing the first batch of grad school students! These teens are the first ones in their family to get an education higher than elementary school!
    All this not to “toot our horns” and brag, but just to encourage each Church, each Pastor, each leader to know that in facing this inmense task – it is possible to conquer! He has no limits! Look at Getsemaní, Primera Tyler and the other Churches doing the same! Both of these Churches have different characteristics, yet, the results are amazing when the Body focuses as one in fighting against this battle!
    If we all come together – Churches, Pastors, leaders, organizations, educators,and so on, and each of us focuses “nuestro granito de arena”, the same Christ who fed the multitude with 5 loaves and 2 fish, will multiply the effort offerings and ride before us giving us victory!
    We are lining up for battle, He is awakening His Church, getting ready to charge forward!!
    We have Churches gaining ground, students waking up and seeing things from a different perspective, leaders passionatelly acting, and schools such as BUA, DBU and so on, coming together to the battle front…
    An awakening is in the verge of bursting any time soon…

  22. Julio, Elizabeth, and Tim, your work and results are incredible. I hope that your examples than exceptions to the rule. We really need to hear your stories and we also need for you to tell us what your are doing to reach the high school completion rates you are reaching as well as the number of those going to college. You are doing outstanding work. I would think that youth who attend our Hispanic Baptist churches would do much better than the state average but we don’t really know that without actually doing the research to document our actual HS completion rate and the rate of those who attend college. This is the kind of thing that we need someone to focus on full-time. I hope that I am proven wrong and that my stats end up being way off. But as of today, 36 months after the Hispanic Education Task Force was appointed, we still do not know. I am hopeful that BGCT, Buckner, and others will jump into the middle of this situation and make a difference soon. Keep praying and yes, keep the conversation going.

  23. Wow brother Albert, those stats really moved my heart. I knew the drop out rate was bad but not that bad. I wrote a post about education yesterday on my site http://www.hispanicgenerations.com and I jokingly told my friend at my graduation this past Thursday that I went from the hood, to being hooded. There is so much truth to that. I still recall picking out low quality shoes (no name brand) to wear to school just so that I wouldn’t get jumped for the pair I was wearing. The fact that my middle school now looks like a prison is an understatement of how I felt when I was a student. We all have our stories but this is what our at risk youth of today are facing. Many are scared to go to school because of the environment that they are in when they attend classes. I know this because as I work with inner city youth and listen to their stories about school one of the first comments they would often make would be about school violence and misbehavior. This is on the forefront of their minds. This is not the case with all youth but for some the future is blurry because of their current situation.
    I’m looking forward to reading about the agencies mentioned above. We need to put more Hispanic College students and graduates in front of Hispanic Youth who can show them that education is attainable. Those of us who have completed college either saw somebody elses diploma, or somebody showed us how much more income we can produce with a higher education or someone just believed in us to the point of helping us fill out an application for junior college. Whatever the case, we have an enormous tasks in front of us. With a “Here I am” attitude, we can work together and see every Hispanic youth as a college graduate instead of an at risk young person.
    Brother Albert, i’m glad you posted this to get people thinking about our future as Hispanic Baptists. I know that Hispanic Generations to come can reap what we sow.

  24. Fabian, we are so proud of your recent accomplishment of earning a Master’s Degree. You are now part of the 3% of Hispanics in America that have earned that level of education. Now, let’s see how many more we can bring along to have access to greater opportunity. You can keep our ears to the ground to know how to make a difference for today’s youth. Keep up the great work.

  25. Brother Albert, thanks for writing about this topic. This is very useful to know especially when I am working directly with teenagers. This past Sunday we celebrated all our seniors graduating from high school at our church, CHBC. We had 100% graduation rate and all of these seniors are going to be attending college in the fall. We are very proud of our 8 students because they defy statistics. While, I think that organizations can be helpful, I also believe that we as a church have an obligation to mentor to these students in our surrounding communities. One on one interaction is the best and this is the reason why our youth ministry is very important. As youth director of my church and as a college student, I know how important education is and I emphasize it to my students. Hispanic teenagers need to have role models in their lives. Therefore, we should encourage our leaders in our hispanic churches to attain a higher level of education. I thank God because in our church we have leaders who have attained bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees. We need to reach out and make a difference because we have the answer!!

  26. Dara! Press on!
    Thank you for the work you are doing with teens!
    Young people like you will bring a positive shift in our Churches and communities!
    Thank you for serving and loving the teens in your reach and for loving the Lord and placing your energy, talents and tools at His feet!
    Press on! 🙂

  27. Dara, you are right on target. In fact, maybe one of our strategies for addressing this issue is to consider how we might strengthen youth ministries that would then impact youth who are thinking about high school graduation and college. Congrats to CHBC for beating the odds and the stats.