Central Texas welcomed Latino Leaders of America (LLA) to Austin this week. The volunteer educational community group will focus on Hispanic middle school and high school students, stressing the importance of high school graduation, a college degree and the need for their leadership in their comŽmunities.
"Latino Leaders of America plans to become a viable and easily accessible resource for a traditionally underserved student segment in need of tools to help them succeed," said LLA founder Javier Hernandez, a school resource officer at Decker Middle School in Manor, Texas. He's also a senior deputy sheriff with the Travis County Sheriff's Office.
"Hispanics are the largest segment of the Texas student population and remain the fastest-growing school-aged segment in Texas," Hernandez said. Female Hispanics make up the largest part of the demographic, he added.
He said that for Texas to remain an economic and employment leader, "we must educate and graduate as much of this population as possible."
LLA's goals include greater Hispanic participation on a number of fronts, including advanced placement courses in middle school and high school, enrollment in colleges and universities, and academic and professional educational programs.
The group also wants to see more parents involved in the education of LLA participants.
"Most of our students are first-generation high school graduates," said Christa Arocha-De Leon, chairwoman, LLA. "It's LLA's goal to assist them in paving the way for the second, third and fourth generations."
Participants must complete five "major strands," which are Cultural, Leadership, College Preparation, Mentorship and Community Service. Participating schools will determine their objectives in each strand.
Each LLA chapter will serve 15-25 students, who will meet four times a month under the guidance of a faculty or staff member from participating schools.
"So many of us do not have the luxury of family members who have experienced high school graduation, let alone college," said Maria Bahen, one of the group's co-founders and a student at Manor High School. "LLA will fill this critical void."
Additionally, LLA will organize events in order to raise funds and awareness for its cause, including the application of grants to government and private organizations.
LLA plans to eventually expand its program throughout the state.
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