“As nonindigenous scholars seeking a dialogue with indigenous scholars, we (Denzin and Lincoln) must construct stories that are embedded in the landscapes through which we travel” (Denzin, Lincoln, & Smith, p.6).
Highlighted in “Unveiling the Promise of Community Cultural Wealth to Sustaining Latina/o Students’ College-Going Information Networks” (Liou, Antrop-Gonazalez, & Cooper, 2009), is the importance of the critical relationships that exists between marginalized students (i.e., minority students) and those that support and guide them (i.e., teachers, guidance counselors, advisors, parents, religious leaders, peers, etc.). In the article, the authors correlate those relationships to the academic success of students. In order for that relationship to impact student success, “these relationships are predicated on teachers who are not only passionate about their content areas, but who are also passionate about their students and continuously strive to know their students, their families, and their communities well” (p. 542).
As noted, teachers are an important part of young people’s lives. However, not all critical relationships come from within the school system. Some of the most critical and enduring relationships are formed outside of school, through peer-to-peer groups, church groups, and family members. Through these relationships, students increase their likelihood of being successful. In one particular case, the authors noted that students often achieved success in their academics as a direct result of specific connections that they had developed to a religious organization and/or other extra-curricular activities. Students who participated in the study spoke to the benefit of participating in activities outside of the classroom “which steered them away from antischool, oppositional youth culture like gang membership and truancy” (p. 542).
According to the US Census Bureau (2012), Hispanic or Latinos comprise 30.2% of the Arizona state population, which is nearly double the percentage for the Hispanic or Latino population in the United States (US Census Bureau, 2012). As such, Arizona will continue to be challenged in meeting the needs of all students, but in particularly, in preparing students to meet the demands of the future. In order to most effectively do this, we must leverage our most valuable resource and commodity, which are the people who live in Arizona. Future preparation begins by preparing the younger generation of today. As minority populations quickly become the majority, it will be even more important in breaking down the barriers that prevent minorities from accessing higher education.
I have seen first-hand the impact that a caring teacher can have on a student’s ability to be successful. That success not only translates to the ability to progress in their educational pursuits, but also transcends education, and helps position them for success in life. Helping students build personal self-esteem, have confidence in their ability, and take pride in their culture, language and heritage, are all critical elements to success. The more we empower students by giving access to information and resources, the more we create a foundation upon which their success will be built.
As an action researcher, being aware of my own biases and limitations when conducting research, particularly as it relates to marginalized, indigenous, minority individuals and groups, will be critical to my ability to represent the story accurately.
While the quote at the beginning noted specifically the role of the authors, I would argue that we (as researchers, practitioners, and members of society) each insert ourselves in the construction of those stories embedded in our own journey.
Denzin, N.K., Lincoln, Y.S., & Smith, L.T. (2008). Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.
Liou, D.D., Antrop-Gonzalez, R., & Cooper, R. (2009). Unveiling the Promise of Community Cultural Wealth to Sustaining Latina/o Students’ College-Going Information Networks. Educational Studies, 45, 534-555.
US Census Bureau (2012) Arizona Quick Facts. Retrieved June 6, 2014 from http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/04000.html