3 Tips for Engaging Latino/a Students

In a short, but helpful, article, Roslyn Hernández writes about the diverse, complicated, sometimes painful, but also rich history that people of Spanish speaking descent bring to the table. Our city consists of a 48% Latino population. Not every area (or even the region as a whole) is going to reflect this percentage in their demographics but still, if you are doing Young Life in our region, you will be doing ministry among Latino/a students.

Roslyn writes about three things we can do to engage Latino/a students, grow in our understanding of their ethnic identity, and help them with their sense of belonging. Here are some takeaways from that article.

Learn

She encourages us to be curious about cultures, traditions, and histories. Some students will feel comfortable sharing these things. Some will even be excited to share these things with you. That’s not always the case though. She encourages us to develop relationships with parents because this allows us to take relationships to a deeper level. I think of how many Quinces my family has been invited to because of how Amelia is pro-active with her engagement of parents. Roslyn also recommends that we become familiar with socio-political issues affecting the lives of our students. As she explains, you don’t need to become a foreign policy expert, but knowing a bit about these kinds of things goes a long way because many of these issues tangibly affect our students and their families.

Acknowledge

Acknowledging the unique contributions that your students’ ethnic and cultural backgrounds bring to your club speaks volumes of how you value them as individuals. What events or holidays do your students celebrate? Here’s a practical question: How can you incorporate these holidays or events into club? Into social media? How about having a fundraiser in December selling homemade tamales or champurrado? You can connect with your student’s traditions in various ways, this shows that you see them and value their heritage.

Roslyn also talks about making space for lament. This doesn’t need to be – but can be – in a large group (i.e. club) setting. This can be more of a one-on-one thing. But to enter into that space of lament you’ll need to build relationships with them to the point where they feel safe enough to share what they are lamenting about.

Recover

She makes several suggestions about “recovering” but one that stuck out to me—because it is so in line with our values in Young Life—is the idea of creating spaces where students can just rest. She points to a phenomenon that many Latino/a kids experience: guilt associated with rest. There can be a huge expectation placed upon the shoulders of some of our students that if they aren’t actively doing something for the wellbeing of the family then they should feel guilty. I don’t want to take away from the practical realities of this, some of our students need to work to help the family, some of our students will need to function as a parent towards their little siblings because of the long hours their parents spend at work. Because of that, creating an environment where kids can be kids, where they aren’t expected to perform, or to be responsible for something, can be such a life-giving thing, even if its just for 2 hours on club nights.

If you want to read the whole article you can find it here:https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/engaging-students-ethnic-and-cultural-background?mc_cid=6560dc74da&mc_eid=968c716b61

Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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