This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.
When Rosa Beltran was going through high school in the late ’90s in a small town in southern Colorado, she never expected to graduate.
“My parents were very concerned about just working and trying to put food on the table. I don’t think I ever had that support from the school either,” Beltran said about her high school in Center, a predominantly Hispanic farming community in the San Luis Valley.
Beltran dropped out and became a teen mom. But she determined her children would finish school.
“It was always instilled to me, I’m going to graduate, I’m going to go to college,” her oldest daughter Marisa, now 25, said. “There was no ifs, ands, or buts about it.”
Before ninth grade she learned she could take college classes as a student in high school. The school bused her to and from the college campus.
“It was a very small, supportive school,” she said.
Marisa Beltran graduated from Pueblo in 2015, during a decade when Colorado’s Hispanic graduation rate rose nearly 20 percentage points, double the gain for all students, and faster than for any other demographic.
Hispanic graduation rates rose dramatically for multiple reasons, including new school strategies, improved economic conditions, and the fierce determination of families. Still, Hispanic graduation and college completion rates lag behind those of white students. And with the pandemic exacting a high cost on Hispanic families’ welfare, many worry it will also chip away at recent gains in education.