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Tucson to host Latino ed town hall
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 10, 2003
Mel MelÚndez
12:00 AM

The White House announced Wednesday that it's joining forces with leading Hispanic organizations to combat the Latino dropout scourge by hosting a series of educational town hall events for parents in six cities, including Tucson.

"The Latino dropout rate is much higher than should be tolerated," said Frank Lopez, executive director of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation, a member of the recently formed Partners in Hispanic Education.

"This will help us pool our resources to expand the educational opportunities for Hispanic students, which benefits all of us by creating a higher-skilled workforce," Lopez said.

Partners in Hispanic Education is a joint effort of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans and various Latino
organizations, including the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

Its chief goal is to offer town hall meetings, workshops and seminars to help empower Latino parents to advocate for their children's education, officials said.

According to a recent report by the White House Initiative, one of every three Latino students drops out of high school. Arizona numbers are similar. A
state Department of Education study found that nearly 36 percent of Latino boys and 28 percent of Latinas who were in the class of 2000 dropped out.

"Parents' lack of knowledge of the system is the chief barrier to our kids' success," said Fred Orozco, president of the Tucson Chamber of Commerce, which will host Arizona's town hall event in February. "My dad was a milkman who didn't go to college. But my brother is a doctor, my sister is a county attorney and I'm the CEO of the chamber. So college is an attainable goal."

Latinos are the largest U.S. minority group, numbering 37 million. What's more, by the year 2020, one in four American children will be of Hispanic
descent, according to U.S. census projections.

Educators and business leaders will play integral roles in the town hall events to help raise the bar for this burgeoning population of students,
Orozco said.

"Some schools aren't doing a good job of getting the message out to Latino parents that college is an attainable goal for their kids," he said. "So
we need to change that defeatist mindset. . . . All kids can succeed."

That concept of equitable expectations is part of No Child Left Behind, the accountability measure pushed by President Bush that some have labeled
the most sweeping educational reform in decades. Not surprisingly, NCLB guidelines govern the new group.

"The partnership's goal backs NCLB's call for localization to help empower folks at the school level," said Partners' spokesman David Almacy. "Because what good is it to have all of these resources if parents don't learn of them?"

The first town hall takes place in San Diego in October, followed by stops in Detroit, Miami, El Paso, Las Cruces, N.M. and the Bronx, N.Y.