New Equity in Education Initiative Seeks to Build Opportunities for Black and Latino Students

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North Carolina A&T State University and Walmart have partnered together to launch the Equity in Education Initiative, a new program focused on giving educational opportunities to Black and Latino students.

The program, launching in early 2021, will support undergraduate students of color and provide resources in disciplines such as business and engineering, which are often predominately white.

Walmart partnered with North Carolina A&T State, the largest historically Black university, to work on eliminating the traditional barriers to career opportunities.

“The Equity in Education Initiative is not only an important step in advancing Walmart’s focus on eliminating barriers to opportunity, it also lays foundational building blocks with a diverse pool of talent who we hope will one day consider joining the Walmart team,” said Donna Morris, executive vice president and chief people officer at Walmart, according to a press release.

This program demonstrates how to improve access to education, which continues to be an issue for students of color.

The New Equity in Education Initiative

Walmart and North Carolina A&T State’s new program has 4 focus areas:

  • The Black Male Initiative – addressing Black male achievement, retention, and graduation
  • The Leadership Cohort Initiative – providing students in business and engineering with skills, coaching, and connections
  • Advancing Blacks in Engineering – producing more graduates in engineering with an emphasis on leadership roles
  • Scholarship Support – providing financial aid to students in need

“Each focus area will support academic performance, enhance critical resources needed to graduate on time and with less debt burden, prepare graduates for first destination career readiness and expand social mobility through additional economic pathways,” according to the press release.

Walmart will invest $5 million into the five-year initiative.

The program specifically focuses on networking, which can often be a barrier to career attainment.

“So many people actually obtain their jobs through networks, because they know someone who knows someone, and many of these students, most of them come in without those built in networks and their families don’t have those networks,” said Kevin James, Dean of the Deese College of Business and Economics at North Carolina A&T State, according to KATC.

The program focuses specifically on Black and Latino students, who often lack access to educational and career opportunities.

“Sixty percent of the 450,000 Black and Latinx students who graduate from college each year end up unemployed or in jobs that don’t require a four-year degree. That is not acceptable,” said John Rice, founder and CEO of the Management Leadership for Tomorrow, the program supporting the Leadership Cohort Initiative. “Our objective is to equip these students with the professional coaching, high performance playbook, and employer connections to ensure they land career path jobs that deliver economic mobility for them and their families.”

Access to Education for Latino and Black Students

These new resources will provide great opportunities for Latino and Black students, who often face barriers to success.

Students of color are more likely to struggle in high school and college. This can have severe consequences on their lives.

“Only 76.8% of Latinos aged 18 to 24 years have earned a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma (GED),” according to a Salud America! research review. “Lower educational attainment among Black and Latino students is associated with an increased risk of institutionalization, poorer physical and mental health, increased risk of dependence on social services, and reduced lifetime earning potential.”

Once in college, Latino and Black students are less likely to finish on time.

According to the College Completion through a Latino Lens report:

  • About 45.8% of Latino students earned a 2- or 4-year degree within six years. This is a lower completion rate than their White peers (62%) and higher than their Black peers (38%).
  • One in every five Latino students were still “in progress” of earning a degree after six years (19%). This is higher than their Black (17%), Asian (17%), and White (11%) peers.

These disparities stem from a lack of resources and support, not ability, according to program leaders.

“These students are coming in sometimes with academic gaps that are due to no fault of their own. It’s not a difference in ability, it’s just a difference in their zip code,” said James, according to KATC.

That’s what the Equity in Education program hopes to address.

How Else Can We Close the Gap?

The Equity in Education program is just one way that Latino and Black students can get equitable access to educational resources.

Another way is to address the root cause of inequity: racism and discrimination.

In addition to education, systemic racism and discrimination make it harder for Latino and Black people to get healthcare, housing, transportation, employment, healthy food, safe treatment by police, all of which are worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can download and use the Salud America! “Get Your City to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis Action Pack” to fight racism in your community.

The Action Pack will help you gain feedback from local social justice groups and advocates of color so that you can start a conversation with city leaders for a resolution to declare racism a public health issue along with a commitment to take action to change policies and practices.

Another way to help address equity is to see where the gaps are.

You can do that by downloading a Health Equity Report Card from Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio. With the report card, you can see how many of your neighbors face inequities in food access, education, income, health care, and much more.

Then you can email your Health Equity Report Card to community leaders, share on social, and build the case to address health equity issues in at-risk areas!

“It’s not just about the impact on the student. It’s about multi-generational impact on families and about extending those impacts into communities that often times have been under resourced,” said James, according to KATC.

 

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