The Encuentros Leadership College Preparatory Academy was created in response to the growing Latino male achievement gap in higher education. The overall purpose of the Academy is to significantly close the college achievement gap for Latino males. In California, the best and brightest Latino males accepted into the UC system as freshmen experience the highest dropout rate, at over 80%. The Academy was designed to increase access, improve retention, and increase baccalaureate completion for Latino males. The Academy's culturally-relevant curriculum teaches core competencies leading to improved self-esteem, self-worth, and personal confidence. Utilizing successful, experienced Latino male faculty, aspiring Latino male high school students are exposed to the daily challenges of college living.
The mission of the Leadership Academy is to prepare low-income Latino male high school students (grades 9-11) for successful admission to the college of their choice. The following goals define the work of the Academy:
1) To improve core leadership competencies,
2) Heighten parental engagement (fathers); to this end, in 2014 the Academy developed "Platicas: Hombre a Hombre" to improve father-son communication skills,
3) Facilitate a seamless transition home/high school to college,
4) Maintain a 100% high school graduation rate coupled with a 90% college baccalaureate degree attainment rate,
5) Create and nurture a growing passion for the "culture of learning" beyond the classroom, &
6) Instill an ethical foundation for service leadership.
The Leadership Academy promotes a strong community and personal value of giving back. Every Academy student is challenged to generate answers to the three Encuentros questions:
Who Am I? Where Am I Going? How Will I Get There?
Over the past 9 years, 474 Academy graduates have generated the following metrics/outcomes:
· 100% high school graduation rate (compared to 60% non-Academy Latino male students),
· 99% daily school attendance rate (highest among all high school students),
· An average GPA of 3.87 (compared to 2.4 for non-Academy Latino male students),
· No school referrals/disciplinary issues (Latino males historically lead all suspension and expulsion rates primarily due to behavioral problems), and,
· 97% have successfully transitioned to the college/university of their choice.
· Since 2006, 204 students have earned a baccalaureate degree and 75% have advanced into a master's degree field of study.
· 100% of Academy graduates who elected to leave their home state of California and pursue college elsewhere, persisted to earn their baccalaureate degree. The cumulative GPA of this away-from-home student group is 3.91.
The 10-year work of the Academy has produced highly effective local partnerships with K-12 school districts and 6 post-secondary colleges/universities. The dramatic improvement in Latino male high school graduation and college retention rates is attributed to the Academy's culturally and gender relevant curriculum and interventions.