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Increasing Educational Attainment and Aspiration in an Underserved Community: The Perspective of Urban-Community Leaders

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Latino students are significantly underrepresented in higher education. As the largest and fastest growing racial/ethnic population in the US, this is cause for national concern. Additionally, this rapid population growth is a call for community and school leaders from underserved communities to assess their service areas and focus on interventions to increase the college-going rates of youth. Maywood is a city located in Southeast Los Angeles. Like many other urban areas, Maywood’s largely Latino population is underrepresented in higher education. This research focused on interviewing Maywood’s community and school leaders (n = 24) to gain insight into their perceptions of their role and responsibility to address issues surrounding their community’s low levels of educational attainment. A key theme emerged revealing that leaders understand their community’s educational issues but do not see their role as leaders to directly address this issue to build a college-going culture. Implications for practice in strengthening community partnerships and developing a college-going culture are provided and a series of recommendations for the creation of a college-going culture are discussed.

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The Educational Leadership Department at California State University, Fullerton in Fullerton, California funded this research study.

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Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dawn Person.

Additional information

The authors are part of the College of Education, Center for Research on Educational Access and Leadership (C-REAL). The Center addresses issues of equity, access, diversity, and education. The authors are a team of researchers who teach and study in the department of Educational Leadership. The faculty teach courses in Higher Education, Student Affairs, and Community College Leadership. The students study higher education and sociology. Research interests include the study of leadership in high need schools and communities, access programs, multicultural education, assessment and evaluation.



Interview Protocol

  1. 1.

    What is your role as a community/educational leader in Maywood? How many years have you held this position or role? Have you had any other role?

  2. 2.

    It would be helpful for us to learn a bit about your personal background.

    1. a.

      Where do you reside?

    2. b.

      Are you a college graduate? If yes, what institution did you attend? (FOR EDUCATIONAL LEADERS ONLY ASK WHAT INSTITUTION THEY ATTENDED)

    3. c.

      How do you identify yourself in terms of race or ethnicity?

  3. 3.

    A lot of discussion has occurred in recent years about school and success.

    1. a.

      How do you define success?

    2. b.

      How do you think the youth of Maywood define success? How important do you think college attainment is for Maywood youth?

  4. 4.

    What do you believe guides and contributes to students’ academic success in your community? What is your responsibility in this process?

  5. 5.

    Have you encountered any challenges or barriers when advocating for higher education? Please explain.

  6. 6.

    What kind of activities/resources/services does the community offer that is geared towards supporting college for all and how do they offer support?

  7. 7.

    How would you describe the quality of these activities/resources/services? And how accessible are they?

  8. 8.

    On a scale of 1–5, with five being the highest, on what level do you believe your role as a community leader can contribute to the creation of a college going culture in the city of Maywood? Please explain your answer.

  9. 9.

    Who do you believe are the major players (i.e. educational leaders/parents/policy makers) that should be involved in developing a college going culture in Maywood? What can/should each do?

  10. 10.

    Do you believe any of the following may be impeding youth from achieving their educational goals? Please explain.

    • Lack of financial aid

    • Limited parental involvement/support

    • Legal status

    • Lack of community support

    • Limited high school resources

    • Lack of knowledge about higher education

    • Do you have anything else to add?

  11. 11.

    Do you have any special plans within the next year to:

    • Increase the number of students that pursue higher education?

    • Establish a college-going community?

  12. 12.

    What are your recommendations in regards to increasing Maywood student enrollment at institutions of higher education?

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Person, D., Garcia, Y., Fujimoto, E. et al. Increasing Educational Attainment and Aspiration in an Underserved Community: The Perspective of Urban-Community Leaders. Urban Rev 46, 493–506 (2014).

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