The low rates of high school graduation and college attendance among Latino students in California are at crisis levels. In the 2012/2013 school term, Latino youth in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) had a graduation rate of 67%, compared to an overall graduation rate of 82%. Fewer than 54% of Mission District high school graduates attend college. This crisis has profound consequences for families and far-reaching impacts on the prosperity and stability of local communities.

Located in San Francisco’s Mission District, Mission Graduates is working to transform the culture of the Mission District so that college becomes the expectation for neighborhood families, rather than the exception. The organization works to fulfill its mission through a wide range of programs that include academic enrichment, literacy development, leadership development, parent empowerment and peer education, college readiness programing, summer academic programs, and college counseling support services.

The Foundation supports two inter-related programs that are increasingly filling the gap in the SFUSD for parent engagement programs that are tailored for Spanish-speaking parents. Mission Graduates’ expertise in Latino parent engagement has been recognized by school principals, teachers, district leaders and nonprofit organizations.

The Parent Partners Program (PPP) is designed to empower low-income Latino parents to take active roles in supporting their children’s academic success in order to increase the likelihood of college attendance and graduation. The program prepares parents to comfortably engage with their schools through leadership development, delivering and attending peer-led educational workshops, as well as supporting schools to develop sustainable parent engagement practices, such as Family Academic Nights, Math Games Day, and Reading Buddies Day. In the 2013-2014 school year, the PPP implemented 58 different entry-level parent engagement training workshops that were attended by more than 300 parents.

Believing the College Dream Program is a partnership with the Center for Educational Partnerships at U.C. Berkeley that is designed to increase the “college capital” in low-income Latino immigrant families by building and strengthening college and career awareness and knowledge among low-income fourth- and fifth-grade students and their parents. The CEP’s Believing the College Dream “college-going” curriculum has been integrated into the afterschool programming for students, and their parents are invited to participate in a series of interactive workshops that complement the lessons their children are being taught. Annual assessments of the project, using data from pre- and post-workshops surveys, have consistently shown positive learning outcomes and attitudinal changes among participating students and parents.