By Eric Melchor
Did you know that 21% of US adults have at least one tattoo? In addition, 21% of Americans say they would go without sex for a whole year in order to maintain access to the Internet. Now I don't have a tattoo, but I am part of the 21% of Hispanics who have an associate degree or higher. And 21%... is not enough.
According to a national study I read in USA Today recently, 30% of African Americans have an associate degree or higher. Whites - 44%. Asian Americans, well we can all learn something from the Asians. 57% of Asian Americans have an associate degree or higher. As for Hispanics, well if you haven't guessed it by now, 21% of Hispanics have an associate's degree or higher.
So, the question is why? Why are the majority of Hispanics not attending college and finishing college? Experts from the Pew Research Center list factors that contribute to this problem. These factors are:
- The parents socioeconomic status - it's difficult for their children to attend 4 year institutions because the parents cannot afford it
- Lack of role models
- Parents educational background and lack of involvement in their children's education
Now, it is true, this is the reality for many Hispanics. It's the truth; this is the reality for many American Latinos. But in contrary to what the experts have to say, I feel the experts have failed to point out the one key factor that will lead more Hispanics to higher education and prosperity. Allow me to share a short story about 3 siblings born and raised in Houston.
Not too long ago there were 3 siblings - Lynn, Theresa, and Victor. Each were two years apart. Their father had passed away when they were all very young which left quite a burden on their Mom who often had to work two jobs just so she could provide shelter and food for her kids. Their Mom had no college education. In fact, she did not even finish high school.
Fast forward to today, Theresa and Victor work low paying jobs, frequently move from one apartment to another, and both are dependent heavily on social welfare programs to help cover their expenses. Their oldest kids, failed to graduate from high school, also never had a real job, and they too rely heavily on public welfare to cover their expenses. Lynn, however, owns a beautiful home, has a great job in the financial industry, and her sons not only finished high school and own their homes, but also graduated from college and have good jobs.
Why were Theresa and Victor not able to hold good jobs, buy their own homes, or be able to support themselves without social dependency? If you ask them, they will give you a list of reasons such as: “I did not have a Mom or Dad to push me to do good in school”, or, “I did not have a role model to look up to”, or “well we were poor and college was not even an option when we were growing up”, or “I just wasn't lucky to get a good job”.
Now when you ask Lynn the question - “why do you think your life turned out different than your brother and sister's?” she simply answers - “I believed in myself. I wanted a good job, I wanted to own my own home, wanted my kids to do well in school, and I took the necessary steps to make that happen.”
Self-belief is what made the difference. Lynn decided that she would determine her own destiny because she was responsible for it. Experts point out several factors as to why there are so few Hispanics in higher education, but the one factor that makes all the difference in the world, the one factor they fail to highlight, is self-belief.
More than likely you know someone who has a dream, maybe that dream is to go to college. Maybe it's to become an actor or start a business or simply to buy a home. But for some reason or another, they make excuse after excuse for not going after it. When you see this person, tell them about this story. 3 siblings, all from the same household. All from the same socio economic status. Two very different roads. One road is to accept things as they are and take whatever life gives you. The other road is believing in yourself and determining your own destiny.
Eric Melchor is a first generation Hispanic college graduate who also earned an MBA from Pace University in New York. Eric is a Manager at a major electricity company and in his spare time, teaches at University of Houston Downtown, where he educates students not only on the subject he is teaching, but also on self-motivation. Eric resides in Houston and can be reached via Twitter at @Melchor_Eric.