At Bright Futures we work collaboratively with many partners in the community to ensure that every student has the academic skills, financial resources, and knowledge that they need to be successful after high school, whether that is at a college or university, a trade or technical school, or in the workforce. Our “Big Goal” and vision for the future of education in Monterey County, is that by 2030 at least 60% of young people will complete a post-high school credential. In order to achieve this goal, we are partnering with local school districts, agencies and community members to understand and eliminate systemic barriers to equitable opportunities and economic mobility.
There is much work to be done to ensure that our collective efforts are academically and financially preparing local students for post-secondary education. For example, in 2022, only 54% of graduating seniors completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or Dream Act applications which are necessary to qualify for federal and state grants and scholarships. Similarly, in 2021, less than half (42%) of graduating seniors completed the A-G course sequence, a requirement for admission to California State Universities (CSUs) and Universities of California (UCs). Understanding the barriers and supports contributing to college preparedness is important in general, and it is also important to understand factors contributing to inequities. Latinx and African American students, for example, are less likely to complete the A-G courses (38% and 36%, respectively), which also means they have less opportunity to go directly to a California State University or University of California from high school. This is especially true for low income Latino and African American boys who completed A-G at 31% and 15%, respectively.
One of the most powerful actions we can take to understand and reduce inequities like these and move us toward our 60% goal is to learn from and support greater decision-making and civic engagement from the communities most affected by the inequities, working together to develop and implement solutions. In light of this, we’re proud to share that we are collaborating with local parents, youth, and organizations on an approach that aligns with these goals: promotores.
Promotores: a Proven Approach
Promotores are parents and youth who leverage their deep connections within their communities to share crucial information about a given topic in a familiar and accessible way. They are prevalent in the Latinx community and serve as cultural and linguistic community educators, often for health information. The promotores model has been found to improve health and education outcomes by reaching members of the community who have been underserved by traditional methods (WestRasmus et al., 2012). For example, a peer-mentoring program at CSU Long Beach called Mi Casa: Mi Universidad used student promotores who leveraged the cultural capital of the Latinx community at their institution. Researchers found that Latinx students who engaged with the promotores for support, tutoring, and academic and student services had improved academic performance and more timely graduation (Rios-Ellis et al., 2015). Additionally, the promotores model has positive outcomes for the promotores themselves. For example, Eastside Pathways (a collective impact partnership similar to Bright Futures) recently led a promotores project and received positive feedback from the promotores they trained related to their personal learning and growth.
A Local Example
In Monterey County, the promotores model was recently put into action through the VIDA Community Health Worker Program. Established in early 2021 with funding from Monterey County, coordinated by the Community Foundation for Monterey County, and implemented by ten organizations including the Center for Community Advocacy and Mujeres en Acción, VIDA has been working to lower the spread of COVID-19 throughout the County. Promotores act as trusted messengers in the community to provide accurate, culturally-accessible information about COVID-19 prevention, testing, vaccination, and treatment to marginalized populations. With this approach, VIDA has helped to drive vaccination rates in low-income communities throughout the county to nearly 100%, undoubtedly reducing the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives.
Mi Vida Mi Futuro
Building on the local success of promotores to reach students and parents, Bright Futures is collaborating on an initiative called Mi Vida Mi Futuro (MVMF). The goal of MVMF is to increase the college and career knowledge of students and parents so that they can take advantage of every educational and vocational opportunity available to them.
MVMF is accomplishing this goal by recruiting, training, and supporting students and parents to be promotores in the community. Community leaders from throughout the county came together to design a training program, which was shared with the promotores and improved upon during the initial phase of the pilot. Thirteen promotores attended the eight-session training program, learning from and revising it to address the areas that they and others in their communities deemed most important.
These promotores, led by Mujeres en Acción (a program of ACTION Council Monterey County) and the Center for Community Advocacy, are now sharing important information with other students and parents through in-person and virtual meetings. Topics include preparing for college, financial aid, managing finances, self-advocacy at school, and education planning conversations. Promotores present information, answer questions, and support parents and students to take action to achieve their educational and career goals. Jose Reyes, a promotor and senior at Salinas High School, explains “I wanted to help incoming students who had little knowledge, or who were first-generation, to get the information I wish I had. As a promotor, I learned that I can help others learn about college, which makes me feel good about myself.”
Over 75 parents and students have participated in training delivered by MVMF promotores, and they are already seeing positive results. Promotores reported that the training they received increased their confidence and knowledge about academic preparedness, career exploration, financial aid, and navigating the school system. Many parent participants report that their children are completing scholarship and financial aid applications, are becoming more engaged in community service activities, and talking with counselors about their classes. As one promotora, Claudia Guerrero, explains: “parents like it because they have the confidence to ask us questions, they have the flexibility of the meeting schedule, and it is in their language.”
Bright Futures is providing project management, measurement, and evaluation support to the program, as well as funding support from the Community Foundation for Monterey County and the Nancy Buck Ransom Foundation. Over the next several months, the curriculum and training will be refined and more promotores will be recruited to expand the program’s reach during the fall and winter. Ultimately, we plan to support the educational aspirations of more students and parents by working to expand the program through partnerships with additional community organizations and school districts, increasing culturally relevant and accessible sources of information about college and career readiness.
Balcazar, H., Alvarado, M., Hollen, M. L., Gonzalez-Cruz, Y., Hughes, O., Vazquez, E., &
Lykens, K. (2006). Salud Para Su Corazon-NCLR: A comprehensive Promotora outreach program to promote heart-healthy behaviors among Hispanics. Health promotion practice, 7(1), 68-77.
Positive pathways – promotores project. Eastside Pathways. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2022, from http://eastsidepathways.org/positive-pathways-promotores-project/
Rios-Ellis, B., Rascón, M., Galvez, G., Inzunza-Franco, G., Bellamy, L., & Torres, A. (2015).
Creating a Model of Latino Peer Education: Weaving Cultural Capital Into the Fabric of Academic Services in an Urban University Setting. Education and Urban Society, 47(1), 33–55.
WestRasmus, E. K., Pineda-Reyes, F., Tamez, M., & Westfall, J. M. (2012). “Promotores de Salud” and Community Health Workers: An annotated bibliography. Family and community health, 172-182.