Manica F. Ramos
We asked scholars to describe some of the following questions: What drew you to do work on Latino youth and families? Who was an important mentor to you in this work? What tips do you have for someone starting out?
My interest in studying Latino children and families stemmed from a desire to make sense of my personal experiences. I was born into a very poor family that valued education highly; however, most members struggled to finish high school. As the first person in my family to attend college, I realized the advice offered to me “if you want to do better in life, go as far as you can in school,” was pivotal to my own social advancement. I often wondered why my life experiences were different. Why was I able to be successful in school while most people around me struggled? This personal experience shaped my research interest in factors that predict educational achievement for Latino children. I quickly realized the pivotal role that parents, and other family members, play in supporting children’s education.
As I delved into the literature I was disheartened to realize that my experiences, and those of the Latino culture more generally, were not reflected in research. There was a lack of cultural sensitivity as well as racial and ethnic equity in the approach to research design and interpretation of findings. For example, when I started research in this area I realized that measures of family engagement in children’s education were very focused on middle income, European American values and activities. The literature portrayed Latino families as less engaged than they actually were by failing to capture the ways Latino families support their children’s education. I am drawn to focus on Latino children and families so that my work addresses this gap and offers a counter-story to the research findings that have largely been accepted as true.
I have had the great fortune to have strong role models and mentors who have shaped my professional growth and support my courage and fortitude to share the strengths of Latino children and families. My introduction to studies on Latino children and families was guided by Dr. Julia Mendez, who was the first professor to encourage my professional growth while reminding me to stay rooted in who I am. Dr. Michael Lopez’s work, and guidance, taught me how to highlight the strengths of the Latino communities, that I knew so well, through objective, rigorous research. I have always admired the work of Dr. Cathy Ayoub and it is a reflection of my own professional growth that I am proud to now call her a colleague. Dr. Doré LaForett instilled in me, through her own generosity, the pivotal role of mentorship. Per my promise, I continue to pay it forward!
We invited scholars to describe a recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes them excited about it.
A recent study that excites me is “Expanding Latino Parents’ Access to Child Development Research through the News Media.” The News Service Project within The Child Trends’ Hispanic Institute is creating a bridge between researchers, the news media, and Latino parents. This publication offered six key recommendations for people who want to inform Latino parents with actionable research. This publication, and approach to sharing research, greatly expands our reach to parents as well as increases the acquired knowledge and awareness of child development research in the Latino community.
Reflections on Latino Caucus Experiences:
Finally, we asked about experiences with the SRCD Latino Caucus: Why is the caucus important and/or your views on the role of the Latino Caucus vis-à-vis SRCD, research on child development, policy/practice.
The SRCD Latino Caucus is important to me because it provides a feeling of belonging and a fellowship with others who share common research interest. Thus, it serves as a source of encouragement for my personal interest and commitment to serving Latino children and families. The Latino Caucus is a place of communal sharing, spreading of knowledge, and a network to build connections within the research community. Most importantly, the Latino Caucus is great resource for future researchers.