Community Organizing on Behalf of Latino Student Success: A Case Study of the Unidos Project in New Mexico
Community Organizing on Behalf of Latino Student Success: A Case Study of the Unidos Project in New Mexico describes how the Unidos Project used knowledge of New Mexico’s history, culture, and the Hispano/Latino community to develop a sustainable, culturally relevant, and unique community organizing model to improve Latino student success. The Unidos Project (Unidos) uses the Acequia — a centuries old, community-operated, irrigation water delivery system native to New Mexico — as a metaphor for their unique community organizing model.
The model is operationalized through four strategy groups that represent components of the Acequia and as a representation of students’ educational pathways: 1. Abriendo La Compuerta (Opening the Gate), 2. Aumentando La Corriente (Increasing the Flow), 3. Recuperando La Corriente (Reclaiming the Flow), and 4. La Limpia (Removing the Barriers).
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The brief also includes core takeaways for improving Latino student success through community efforts. Core takeaways include:
• Articulating a common vision — Unidos’ vision is to increase Latino student success in Albuquerque. Collaboratively creating and articulating a clear vision with measureable outcomes creates opportunities to engage, organize, and collaborate with a community of stakeholders and partners who are also committed to this vision.
• Understanding whom you are serving — Unidos uses the Acequia metaphor, led by community representatives, and integrates data on educational success to inform its efforts. Knowing who you intend to serve requires knowing and respecting the community, including their history, serving and providing service in a culturally competent manner, and using data to profile current context.
• Identifying and working effectively with partners — Unidos identified and engaged over 80 core and supporting partners throughout Albuquerque and New Mexico and has a community organizer/liaison to help support the partnership efforts. Collective effort for community cause can result in greater success for students. Identifying core and supporting partners are integral to leading the effort.
• Viewing the community as an asset — Unidos focuses on the opportunities to strengthen families, communities, and the economy by improving Latino student success. Viewing the community in an asset-based perspective allows success since today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce.
• Scaling Efforts — Unidos has increased its efforts in serving areas of Albuquerque and expanded its engagement to engage the workforce community and city/state policymakers within its strategy groups and leadership to support their vision of Latino student success. Community organizing has a voice to engage policymakers to scale efforts and educate other sectors in the community not typically involved in student success efforts.
The Unidos Project is one of thirteen Latino Student Success efforts funded by the Lumina Foundation to increase postsecondary education attainment.