Our Story: ‘Juntos’ for a Better Education

September 2015

“Juntos Para Una Mejor Educación (Together for a Better Education)” brings together families, school staff and community partners to help Latino youth successfully complete high school and explore opportunities for higher education. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach partners with volunteers and local organizations to implement the program across Iowa.

Michelle Maynes, an extension educator in Polk County, is part of the team implementing the Juntos program with middle school youth who attend Harding Middle School in Des Moines and their families. Maynes says:

It’s really important to start the conversation as early as possible about education, and we really want to reach the students before entering high school. The transition from middle school to high school is a really critical time for youth, and it’s important that we can help families prepare the necessary tools and resources to best support their child.

The Juntos workshop starts with a meal for the entire family. This is a great time for families to chat with each other, to catch up on the week, and to share ideas and resources. The sessions are interactive and have hands-on activities. And they’re done with the parents and the youth in the same room, so they have that opportunity to start that conversation, hopefully, here during the workshops and then continue that conversation at home later.

We always start with a recap of the previous program, so in case families weren’t able to make it, they can have an understanding of what we talked about. The beginning of the first session we had the families write down a few goals that they wanted to work on during the Juntos five-week program. And so tonight we’ll pull those goals back out and have the families look at them and see what progress they have made and what kinds of progress they want to continue to work on.

Guest speakers are invited to the Juntos workshops to be able to share their experiences of reaching higher education and answer any questions the families might have about the barriers or the obstacles that they may face along the way and how to overcome those.

I love when a question comes up that maybe families haven’t thought about previously, and to see that lightbulb click, for them to get excited about a possibility they didn’t realize was going to be available for their families.

Contact Kimberly Greder about the Juntos program from ISU Extension and Outreach, kgreder@iastate.edu, 515-294-5906.