The Howard County School System and an advocacy group that focuses on Hispanic student achievement plan to renew a partnership Friday with the hopes of lowering dropout rates and encouraging academic success.
The school system and Conexiones will officially sign the partnership at Long Reach High School in Columbia.
"The Hispanic population throughout the county has been increasing - we want to make sure that we have an open, welcoming environment for Hispanic students," said Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin. "It is essential that we communicate with them, and frequently. It is critical that we continue to strengthen relationships with groups so that we mutually support one another."
Under the partnership, the school system and Conexiones will co-sponsor after-school Hispanic Youth Clubs at Atholton, Glenelg, Howard, Long Reach, Mt. Hebron, Oakland Mills, Reservoir, and Wilde Lake High schools and Oakland Mills Middle School. Conexiones will also continue to sponsor an awards convocation for Hispanic high school seniors. The school system will continue to consult with the organization for issues affecting Hispanic students and families, according to school system officials.
School Board Chairman Frank Aquino said having a group like Conexiones work with the school system can only help to increase student achievement.
"Anything that helps students focus on their scholastic goals is beneficial," said Aquino. "To have a community based group like Conexiones be a part of that is great."
In addition to Cousin and Aquino, Feli Sola-Carter, President of Conexiones, and Diane Martin, Director of Student, Family and Community Services, are scheduled to sign the formal partnership agreement.
Hispanic students account for 5.5 percent of the 49,900 students in the school system, and, along with Korean students, are among the largest users of the English for Speakers of Other Languages program.
Hispanics drop out of the school system at 4.03 percent, which is the highest of any ethnic group. The county average is 1.39 percent.
The dropout rate among Hispanics will be a major focus for Conexiones and the school system this year, according to Cousin. School system officials believe that the Hispanic Youth Clubs will be one of the ways to decrease the dropout rate.