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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Igualita que su madre: A Study on the Educational Journey of First-Generation Latina College Graduates and the Support Roles of Their Immigrant Mothers

  • Author(s): Perez, Elisa
  • Advisor(s): Cooper, Robert
  • et al.

This qualitative study examined the academic relationship between first-generation Latina college graduates and their immigrant mothers. Research shows that Latinas are the fastest growing ethnic minority in the country, and by 2060 will account for nearly a third of the total female population in the United States (Gandara, 2015). Although the literature suggests that Latinas are outperforming Latinos academically (Bukoski & Hatch, 2016; Riegle-Crumb, 2010; Saenz & Ponjuan, 2009, 2011), Latinas still require educational support in order to succeed during their educational trajectories (Beltr�n & NCLR, 2011). Using Chicana/Latina feminist theory (Villenas, Godinez, Bernal, & Elenes, 2006), this study explored how first-generation Latina college graduates viewed their educational journey and how their immigrant mothers supported them throughout the process. Specifically, this study examined the individual stories of both the mothers and their daughters using pl�ticas (friendly and relaxed conversations). The research design consisted of two semi-structured interviews with each individual participant. Findings were then organized around five themes: (a) Stories of Struggle, (b) Unconditional Support, (c) Additional Academic Support Outside of the Family, (d) College Persistence, and (e) They Just Don’t Get It. The findings of the study revealed that although the immigrant mothers in this study lacked a formal education, they still did what they physically could to support their daughters and their academic careers. In addition, the data also showed that the first-generation Latina college graduates in this study understood their mothers could not help them when it came to completing math homework, writing an essay, or applying to college; so, they sought outside support to fill this void. All the college graduates in the study claimed that they had additional help from either mentors, teachers, or outside pre-college programs throughout middle school or high school. According to the college graduates, this outside support was crucial in understanding the significance of applying to and going to college. For the first-generation Latina students in this study, their concern was not lacking the motivation to go to college, their problem was not having the requisite resources, exposure, and support. Although their mothers wanted their daughters to go to college, they did not have the knowledge or expertise to help them do so. The findings from this study suggest that schools, communities, and families need to develop meaningful and purposeful partnerships to better support first- generation Latinas. Recommendations for practice consist of schools and communities supporting first-generation Latina students through: parental engagement, providing access to mentors and pre-college program opportunities, and developing a systemic approach in easing the transition from high school to college.

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