Latino Immigrant Youth and Interrupted Schooling

In February we published Marguerite Lukes’ new book Latino Immigrant Youth and Interrupted Schooling. In this post, Marguerite gives us a bit of background to the book.

Each year countless immigrant youth migrate to the US and Europe with dreams of a better tomorrow. International news organizations report regularly on migrants’ ordeals (see here  and here) but few focus on what happens once they settle in their host country. Many, in the midst of their adolescent years, have abandoned their schooling and arrive as unaccompanied minors, facing multiple challenges in education and the labor market, with adolescent needs but shouldering adult responsibilities.

Latino Immigrant Youth and Interrupted SchoolingMigrant youth are the subject of my new book Latino Immigrant Youth and Interrupted Schooling. The book explores the voices, perspectives and life experiences of a growing group of immigrant young adults at a time when both Europe and the US struggle to design effective immigration policies to integrate and educate them. The book emerged from my personal experiences teaching and designing programs for these youth. I found that prior research tended to ‘explain away’ the issue of immigrant youth’s interrupted schooling, equating it with disinterest in education. In the classroom, I met young migrants thirsty for information about college and job training, and who often had been encouraged to leave school or were frustrated because their need to work and support families with remittances conflicted with school’s schedules. Far from being disinterested in school, the young people whom I met were eager to learn English, enter college, and become professionals, many with aspirations to become doctors, lawyers, teachers and social workers and sought opportunities to advance. Yet institutional barriers stood between them and realizing their dreams; they had few mentors or peers who could help them access feasible educational options.

The book fills a glaring gap in scholarship on immigrant young adults who are categorized as dropouts (those who have left secondary school) by presenting new data on a significant but overlooked population. In the book, I present recommendations for supporting and serving these youth. Persistent deficit views that suggest that some groups ‘value’ education more than others overlook sociopolitical realities and global economic factors the lead to school interruption prior to migration and institutional barriers that keep students out of school once they arrive in the host country. The book seeks to enrich the conversation by putting faces to young people who are often presented merely as statistics. The book also explores ways in which the US political economy impacts the lives, educational pathways and work options of these young adults, and their integration into the cultural, social and economic mainstream of the US.

Historical and contextual data are used to provide the reader with an understanding of the socio-political forces at work that lead young people to leave school in their countries of origin.

By using data collected in interviews of 150 students who arrived in the US between the ages of 15 and 24, I present their experiences as they navigate the complex and confusing education landscape after arriving in the US. Existing policies often provide disincentives for schools to serve youth who are emergent bilinguals and older than the average secondary student, and sometimes with emergent basic academic skills.

Central to this new volume is an examination of the role of language, English proficiency, literacy and academic skills play in access to educational options. It presents research on multilingual and translanguaging approaches to academic English development and existing policies and practices for students with interrupted formal education. The book concludes with a discussion of existing public policies, opportunities and institutional constraints that impact the young adults discussed here. Existing models that show promise are presented, alongside challenges and persisting questions and directions for the future. The book shares voices and compelling stories of young immigrant adults who were eager to share their experiences. Time and again they reminded me that this type of scholarship is important because, as one youth explained, “they don’t really see us.”

If you would like more information about this book, please see our website.

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