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Hispanic community college student empowerment : developmental English participants describe their educational experiences

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  • The purpose of this study was to learn about the experiences of Generation 1.5 Hispanics in developmental English in community college. A qualitative comparative case study design was used for this social critical study. The key findings fell into three categories: road blocks, motivators, and actions. The road blocks included: financial stress, language difficulty, family stress, late high school graduation, death of family or friends, inappropriate English placement, and irrelevant curriculum. The motivators included: family support, positive developmental English experiences, helpful college services, defined career goals, relevant curriculum, positive peer pressure, effective role models and mentors, and caring teachers. The actions included defining goals, choosing to attend college, role modeling for others, exercising self discipline, and selecting supportive friends; these actions empowered the students. Secondary themes included: parental lack of education, classism in Mexican schools, experiential knowledge about Hispanics, and desire for a better life. The participants in the study were Generation 1.5 Hispanics, born in the United States or Mexico, and were monolingual or bilingual. The participants received their K-12 education in the United States and/or Mexico. Nine conclusions were reached during the study: 1) Families and friends support Hispanic Generation 1.5 students to attend college; 2) Being role models for others provides motivation for Hispanic students to stay in college; 3) Positive peer pressure creates incentive to stay in college. Exercising self discipline and choosing friends with college aspirations empowers students; 4) English placement is not working for all students; better assessment tools and departmental practices regarding initial placement are needed; 5) Developmental English classes with student-centered instruction provide students with improved skills and confidence; 6) Curriculum that is relevant, multicultural, and rigorous encourages learning; 7) Developmental English programs with structure and clear assessment policies provide students with information they need to achieve their goals; 8) ESL learners, whether native born or non-native born, struggled with communication and homework due to language barriers, which suggests teachers and student services providers need to actively support these students; and 9) College environments that promote collaboration, multiculturalism, student centered learning and inclusion help students feel safe and supported.
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