Community Learning Exchange

Success in South Texas

The Llano Grande Center, located in Elsa, Texas, works to open access to higher education for local students and engages them in community change initiatives to revitalize their community. Often described by outsiders as high poverty, this primarily Mexican-American community is claiming the richness of their heritage and culture to create a better future for their citizens.

Their students attend the most prestigious universities in the country including: Yale, Harvard, Brown, Columbia, Tufts, MIT, Stanford.

How do they prepare their students?
They help students prepare for the social, political and academic rigors of higher education by cultivating community-minded leaders. One key approach is teaching students to collect and archive oral histories [digital stories] from community members. As elders are invited into classrooms to share their life histories, students and teachers learn about the rich, untold history of the community and develop a greater sense of possibilities.

Students then go with staff on group trips to colleges and meetings with admissions officers. This process challenges teachers, students and parents to raise their own expectations.

Creating Collective leadership capacity for community change. As students engage community members in the learning process, they cultivate collective leadership capacity of adults and youth to work together for the success of the schools. Community members who share their stories develop closer connections and interest in the schools. These community partnerships support student initiatives in the community. For instance, students lead community education programs to inform the public about school bond issues leading to passing multi-million dollar bonds to support school construction. [link to Bridge article].

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