Overcoming the barriers: school success of Mexican American graduates from Pan American University in South Texas from 1955 to 1975
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This study examined the contextual factors that led to the success of Mexican Americans who overcame extraordinary obstacles in obtaining post-secondary educations. Mexican Americans continue to experience great challenges to postsecondary success. An in-depth case study was performed on ten subjects who managed to not only survive, but also do well in school and life. The purpose of the study was to identify obstacles these men and women had to overcome, the means they used to overcome them, and the salience of their ethnicity to their experience. Utilizing a worldview construct and the concept of familism, findings are presented that demonstrate how these men and women were able to succeed educationally. First, their families placed a high value for and exposure to literacy, English and Spanish, in the participantsÃ¢ÂÂ homes. Contrary to the fact that these participantsÃ¢ÂÂ homes were characterized by low levels of parental education, they were exposed to high levels of literacy. A second important commonality among these high achievers was that all of them at some point in their schooling attended desegregated schools where they were exposed to Anglo peers with much greater social capital than themselves. Finally, and perhaps the most important, is the profound value for hard work that characterized almost all of these households and was channeled into dedication to studies and a strong belief that effort, perseverance, and courage were important in achieving academic goals. Rather than just focusing on the barriers, the problems common to low-income, first-generation college students as do most studies on student access and success, this study focuses on the creative solutions its subjects found and the kinds of support that made differences for them. The study records the perceptions of the successful graduates of the causes of their school success and tapped into their insights. The findings and recommendations of the study may enable educators to re-examine their own attitudes toward the schooling of Mexican origin students and its unanticipated negative consequences and help institutions of higher education identify policy changes that will facilitate the recruitment and retention of Hispanic and other minority students.
Garcia, Juanita Celia (2005). Overcoming the barriers: school success of Mexican American graduates from Pan American University in South Texas from 1955 to 1975. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from