RIO GRANDE COUNTY- The Rio Grande Prevention Partners Community Coalition (RGPP) met for their October meeting via Zoom Tuesday, Oct. 6. They continued their work of learning about health equity and reviewed membership and community benefits.
The coalition was joined by Dr. Beverly Maestas, an administrator in District 70 in Pueblo, who is originally from the San Luis Valley and a former local teacher, principal and superintendent who most recently locally worked in the Sierra Grande and Centennial school districts. She is also the sister of RGPP member Ashley Maestas of the Colorado Workforce Center. Dr. Maestas has worked in education as an administrator for 20 years, making her uniquely qualified to join Youth Advocate Andi Golsan in a presentation about educational attainment and its affect on health equity, specifically, the two presented on Socioeconomic Status (SES) and Education.
Dr. Maestas presented on 16 barriers to educational attainment and academic achievement, including discipline, drug and alcohol abuse (parent or student), abuse (victim or exposure), involvement in the foster care and/or judicial systems, deceased or incarcerated parents or siblings, teen parents, credit deficiency, gang involvement, mental illness, habitual truancy, homelessness, migrant status, medically fragile, special education eligibility and low socioeconomic status (typically measured by the school system as qualifying for free or reduced lunch). Maestas related results from studies showing students from low SES homes enter high school with a literacy rate five years behind those of high- income students (Reardon, Valentino, Kalogrides, Shores & Greenburg, 2013) and their dropout rates is 12%, compared to 3% of their peers. SAT scores are also higher in high SES homes as well, with over 130 points difference in critical reading between homes with a family income of $20,000 and homes with a family income of more than $200,000 and over 120 points difference in mathematics. Higher income students also rate themselves as having a higher intelligence level than their low SES peers.
Golsan explained that in addition to the discrepancies in dropout rates, students from low SES backgrounds have a 14% college graduation rate versus 60% for high income students and the rates for achieving a bachelor’s degree or higher are also significantly lower for low SES students.
Maestas also presented a surprising fact, “School conditions contribute more to SES differences in learning rates than family characteristics do (Aikens & Barbarin, 2008).” Maestas explained other studies correlated this to teachers’ experience and qualifications. Often teachers in low SES areas are using these schools as steppingstones to better opportunities later.
Maestas said improving the situation means improving family support, school support/positive relationships and resources, role models, access to opportunities and school involvement/social belonging/leadership opportunities. She also encouraged advocates to be educated on the correlations between SES and education, be aware of the socioeconomic diversity of students and counter the cycles and frustration that come with these discrepancies with more involvement opportunities and to provide resources and set expectations to minimize economic gaps and level the playing field. Most importantly Maestas encourages advocates to establish positive relationships and become a positive support system.
RGPP Coordinator Nancy Molina announced the coalition benefits survey for members, to obtain more data and strategies per the results of the coalition survey report. Molina also asked for reports from all of the workgroups. Golsan explained her “Toilet Talk” idea, which is placing informational flyers in restrooms at Monte Vista High School and other relevant places, will include a sponsoring business, a Communities that Care (CTC) corner, a youth voice section and an RGPP meeting summary section, to inform youth what RGPP is about and how the evidence-based CTC process works. Businesses or others who are interested in sponsoring the “Toilet Talk” flyers can contact Andi Golsan at [email protected] .
The executive team will be assisting Molina with the RFA for the upcoming five-year CTC grant as well as an MOU with the Monte Vista Kids Connection. Individual work groups will also be addressing the three areas for improvement indicated by the Coalition Survey Report.
Youth Involvement Meeting
The RGPP Youth Involvement workgroup also met Friday, Oct. 9. They reviewed the results of the Coalition Benefits Survey. The survey ranked different facets of RGPP Coalition participation from one to five, with one being the least valuable to participants and five being the most; a total of 11 coalition members answered the survey. The Health Equity Trainings had mixed results as a benefit of membership with one person rating it a two, two people rated it a three, and eight rated it at a four or five. The Community Readiness Model used by the CTC process had two participants rate it at a three and nine at a four or five. All of the members rated the Positive Youth Development trainings at least a four. The assessments, both the Coalition Survey and the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, had a mix of answers from three through five. All participants rated the networking opportunities provided by participating in the coalition as at least a four and all but one person rated the collaboration with community organizations similarly.
The workgroup also discussed expanding their services to the middle schools with presentations, after Molina said one of the Saguache County schools suspended two middle school students who were caught vaping. Molina also said the coalition should advocate for policies that provide help and resources to the students as an alternative to suspension, because of the negative effects of suspensions on educational attainment. Molina encouraged the youth to lead the anti-vaping presentation for the middle schools in Monte Vista and Del Norte, as the students will be more responsive to information from other youth.