A group of students and family members pose for a photo

Hispanic families participated in the 4-H Juntos Program through Murray Independent to help them prepare for post-secondary education.
Submitted photo

Hispanic families at Murray High School (Murray Independent) participated in the 4-H Juntos Program, a five-to-six-week program tailored to the Latin and Hispanic communities in the county as a career readiness program to expose them to post-secondary education options.

“We opened those doors and are trying to work on taking down barriers to help them be successful, and the kids will hopefully realize they have more options than they thought they had,” said Lourdes Oster, the English language teacher for Murray Independent.

Oster explained that the program helps break down some of the barriers that the families and students face inside and outside of the classroom.

“They didn’t feel comfortable because they were intimidated by the language barrier,” said Oster. “They didn’t know who to reach out to. They didn’t feel comfortable doing that because they can’t articulate themselves as clearly.”

Calyn Colston, an extension agent for 4-H Youth Development through the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, participated in the 4-H Juntos Program training back in March to help launch the program in Calloway County.

“It’s here to assist our high school students with whatever they aspire to do after they graduate high school,” said Colston. “Whether that is going into the workforce, starting their own business, go to college, learning some sort of trade. Whatever their interest is, the program is to help get them where they need to be, to do what they want when they graduate high school.”

Oster, along with numerous staff members from the district, helped spread the word about the program.

“It grew very quickly through word of mouth,” she said. “The families have never had something tailored for just them.”

Oster said the first few weeks included family nights where students, parents and their siblings were able to participate in activities that involved different careers.

“We had a different focus for each night, and from there we had the kids choose a path of what they wanted to do,” she said.

Assistant Superintendent at Murray Independent, Whitney York said the next steps are building the student’s communication skills and resumes, learning the traits of those careers and preparing them for the future.

“I think education is a big community effort and we do a lot in other areas to try to bridge that gap between the schools and business community, the schools and nonprofits, because in the end, we’re creating students that are going to enter the workforce in our area,” said York.

Having a program tailored to these families, York said the schools prioritized the support from the Hispanic families to help their students become successful.

“To have the parents involved in their education process is very critical for the success of the student and these parents all wanted to help,” said York. “They wanted to be supportive, but they just didn’t know exactly what resources we had to help them.”

Although the initial five-to-six-week program has concluded, Colston said they are still meeting with each of the students during their seventh-period class at the high school once a month to work through their aspired career curriculum.

“We have to work together to try to make sure they’re ready and make sure they have opportunities and they are productive members of society,” said Oster.