Juntos program empowers Latino families around education, earns accolades

Yamhill County Juntos students participate in Science/STEM Camp at OSU.

Nearly 25% of Oregon's public school students are Latino. In an environment where Latino students experience persistent disparities in high school completion and college access, it is imperative to offer pre-college support that honors the socio-cultural context of Oregon’s Latino communities.

In 2012, OSU Open Campus launched Juntos, (meaning “together” in Spanish). The Juntos program, embedded in OSU Extension in 22 Oregon counties, is unique among college-access programs because it engages students’ families in learning about post-secondary pathways and making college a family goal. The program provides families with knowledge, skills, and resources to prevent youth from dropping out of high school, and to encourage families to work together to gain access to higher education. To achieve this goal, Juntos program coordinators unite with community partners to provide culturally relevant programming for eighth through 12th-grade students and their parents.

More than 5,500 students and families in 100 schools and 40 communities have been served by Juntos. There has been a nearly a 100% high school graduation rate and 92% post-secondary education access rate. Juntos Family Day is a signature component of the program, helping build a sense of belonging in higher education for Latino and first-gen­eration college students, and to showcase OSU resources. All content is delivered in Spanish, featur­ing native-speaking bilingual and bicultural presenters.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic Juntos Family was held virtually in 2021, drawing 424 students and parents from 47 middle and high schools across Oregon. After the event, 79% of the parents said their child was likely or very likely to attend OSU as a result of Juntos Family Day, and 80% said their kids were likely to attend any two- or four-year college.

To address systemic biases in our education system, Juntos evaluates the local school and community environment with measures associated with student outcomes in K-12 and post-secondary settings. Since this framework was implemented in 2016, data from the evaluation has been used to inform Juntos curriculum updates, engage partners in equity work, and secure financial support from university and external sources.

In 2020, the Juntos team delivered peer-reviewed presentations at annual conferences of the Oregon Public Health Association, American Evaluation Association, and Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities. A research brief on findings from the Juntos evaluation was published in the Journal of Extension.

As a result of its success, the OSU Juntos program and evaluation model has been recognized by the national Juntos 4-H program as an example of effective culturally-responsive evaluation and OSU Juntos co-facilitated development of common measures to be implemented in nine states.