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Project Wise Latina

16 November 2010


Latinas remain “critically understudied” (Garcia-Reid, 2007) and extant models of their development are inadequate to the task of explaining their unique cultural, familial, and ethnic identity processes (Denner & Guzman, 2006) and the importance of disaggregating ethno-cultural groups within the Spanish-speaking community (Umana-Taylor, et al. 2001; 2002;)is obscured. The National Women’s Law Center and MALDEF (2009) outlined several community and research initiatives to improve the social, educational, and employment outcomes of Latinas. Many of these are already inform the Adelante Chicas program that is the focus of our study. Intersectionality studies of gender (Shields, 2008), ethnic identity research (Quintana & Vera, 1999) and social capital studies of Latinas’ well-being (Garcia-Reid, 2007) afford a new lens with which to choose measurements of ethnic identity and to apply a feminist action-research analysis of qualitative and quantitative analyses we present. Programs that foster the acquisition, maintenance, and expansion of these resources are increasingly recommended and preferred by advocacy groups (NWLC & MALDEF, 2009). Data gathered for this study include program attendance and evaluation of its benefits by the girls; school engagement/attendance; academic outcomes; focus group narratives on experiences of prejudice, family obligations, and academic aspirations. Study design included comparisons of 8-18 year old girls enrolled (N=156): persisters vs. non-persisters on academic measures, attendance, and engagement. Results indicated that the majority of girls were Mexican-American ancestry, most were US born. Persisters’ GPAs were higher than non-persisters. Attendance at school was high overall (94-96%) and teacher comments were mostly positive. Academic outcomes were affected by proficiency testing. Academic aspirations were high for the adolescent cohort (pediatrician, etc.) but girls reported experiences of prejudice in schools, and their desire for more academic resources. Family obligations were coded for themes of ambivalence, preparation, or “immigrant struggle” narratives girls internalized. Overall, girls rated the program positively with age cohorts varying in benefits it provided to them. All cohorts noted the social-emotional support it provided. Fifth and sixth graders were most likely to focus on “confidence and motivation” it provided. Results are discussed in terms of effects of “high stakes testing” and cultural needs on girls’ academic aspirations and outcomes.


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