When Daniel López-Cevallos joined Juntos as its program evaluator three years ago, the program was growing and thriving throughout northwestern, central and eastern Oregon.
Juntos (meaning “together” in Spanish) provides programming for Latino 6-12th graders and their families that empowers them to gain knowledge about higher education.
“By design the Juntos program puts parents and youth together. They go through a core 6-week program to get more college-ready. The curriculum is taught in Spanish, so parents are integrated into the conversation in culturally relevant ways. Our research shows that it’s valuable to both parents and youth,” López-Cevallos, a faculty member in CLA School of Language, Culture and Society, says.
Oregon State’s program began in 2012, adapted from the first Juntos program in the U.S., which originated in North Carolina. Ana Gomez, Juntos’ first coordinator, started the program in Madras, with a small group of volunteers.
It gained traction quickly. To date, Juntos is offered in 27 communities in 13 counties statewide. More than 3,500 Latino families have participated in the program. 100% of its student participants have graduated from high school, and 92% have experienced post-secondary success.
It didn’t take long for Juntos to grow beyond even the North Carolina model.
“Because of the interest of local communities and school districts in partnerships with us, we developed a shared budget model in our version of Juntos,” López-Cevallos says.
Many of Juntos’ coordinators and facilitators are paid partially by Open Campus, which houses the program, as well as the school districts and community colleges with whom they work. The model brings Juntos into schools’ and communities’ fabric.
López-Cevallos’ community-engaged research approach to evaluating Juntos also sets Oregon State’s program apart. His job as program evaluator is to survey the students and families Juntos serves, synthesize the information and identifying ways the program — as well as schools and communities — can improve.
“I see my role as telling Juntos’ story,” López-Cevallos says. “Reporting is a way to give back to the community. Evaluating and seeing results feeds into improving Juntos. It leads to conversations with partners to further the goal of having kids be successful, competitive for scholarships, get financial support and have their academic chops in place.”
In fact, López-Cevallos’ most recent evaluation of Juntos delved into discrimination in schools. Almost half of students reported experiencing discrimination, from biased perceptions about their ability to speak English (most Juntos students are born in the U.S.) to doubts about their immigration status, to fear of deportation. And reports of discrimination have increased over the past two years.
“It’s been a hard conversation to have with partners about what can be done to address discrimination,” López-Cevallos says. “Some districts thought they were doing well, so we think about what they can to do adapt and how to assess that.”
Each year, López-Cevallos releases a summary report in Spanish to participating families, to let them know that Juntos is hearing their concerns and taking steps to address them. Not only that, Juntos’ English-language report has yielded grant money, mostly from the Ford Family Foundation, that has allowed the program to add coordinators and continue its research.
“Because of our partnership with Daniel, we have shared Juntos’ work through scholarly publications, conferences and journals,” says Jeff Sherman, Open Campus’ program leader. “We’ve added to our research team through grants Daniel has helped facilitate. Oregon State is a national leader in the Juntos research program, and we are proud to have him here.”
For López-Cevallos, the joy comes from being part of a community-based program, and taking steps to help families feel like they’re a part of that. “We’re looking at outcomes, but Juntos has larger implications, and that’s part of what I love most.”