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?