As a first-generation college student, I jumped at the opportunity to take college classes while in high school. As a result, I was able to enter college as a sophomore—saving me time and money. No doubt, the program has been a blessing for me but it also came with its challenges.
For students like me who want to explore both their college academic interests as well as their culture and identity, something was missing. As a Latina, I wanted to take classes in which I could learn more about issues relevant to me and my history beyond Hispanic Heritage Month or Women’s History Month. All year round I wanted to learn about my identity and history.
Although history courses were offered, they weren’t culturally relevant, which can be a challenge for students from diverse backgrounds. In some cases, it can even cause students’ performance to decline.
Research indicates that an achieved ethnic identity is positively correlated with academic and career confidence.
Students with higher levels of ethnic identity also have better reasoning ability and higher academic grades. Other research shows that individuals with an achieved ethnic identity have more positive self-esteem, have better psychological health and most important, have better coping skills to deal with racism.
As a Latina who has experienced few opportunities to develop my own ethnic identity while in a diverse high school, I would argue that there needs to be more of a connection to identity within the material taught in concurrent-enrollment offerings.
In doing so, students of color are better prepared for success in the higher-education system due to having a better understanding of one’s own identity.
As a future Latina marriage and family therapist and author, I hope that high schools expand their concurrent enrollment offerings to give students of color the opportunity to develop higher levels of ethnic identity prior to attending an institution of higher education.
Concurrent enrollment is an important experience for high school students, but the system needs to diversify its course offerings to better serve all students, especially those from diverse backgrounds.