Escalera: Taking Steps to Success

Academic Level
Community-Based Organization
Issue Area
Key Personnel
Program Focus
College Prep


In 2001, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) created the Escalera Program: Taking Steps to Success to promote economic mobility for Latino youth by eliminating barriers to basic and advanced education and employment. Escalera targets youth who display high potential for success but, because of academic, financial, or familial reasons, may be at risk of not graduating. Escalera is tailored to meet the needs of high school juniors and seniors by providing guidance and support in four key areas: exposure to a rigorous and semi-scripted curriculum, experiential learning activities, case management, and internship opportunities. Escalera currently serves over 650 students in 21 sites across the country and has served close to 3500 students nationwide since it began. 93% of the current cohort is Latino, and 79% of students state that neither parent has higher than a high school diploma.

Program Description

Escalera seeks to improve educational and career outcomes for Latinos by increasing the Latino high school graduation rate, postsecondary enrollment and completion rates, and advancement into careers with upward mobility opportunities. The program was designed to offer Latino students the resources and support they were not receiving elsewhere.


In the 2014-2015 cohorts, Escalera served nearly 1,300 students. 95% of Escalera students received a high school diploma or were on track to graduate on time, compared to the national Hispanic graduation rate of 75%. Escalera students experienced about 120 college visits and applied to an average of 4.8 colleges. 80% of Escalera high school graduates enrolled in post-secondary opportunities, compared to the national rate of 65.2% for Latinos. 82% of students completed the FAFSA, and 59% applied to additional outside scholarships. 62% of participants completed an internship. Students report significantly higher future education and career plans, and their feelings toward school significantly increased following the Escalera program. There was an 88% increase among students who reported asking for meetings with their school counselor, and a 53% increase among students who reported talking to people in the career that they want to pursue. Students’ connectivity to school, their self-image, and their sense of direction increased after participating in Escalera.