By PHYLLIS SNODGRASS
The overall educational attainment of our residents is the key to our future Economic Development. Research demonstrates that people with higher levels of education earn more over the course of a lifetime. Those students that graduate from High School, earn a $1 Million dollars in their lifetime than those who do not. Those who graduate from college earn another $1 Million over the course of their lifetime. Higher education is the key to the American Dream of economic prosperity. Those that speak two global (e.g. Spanish/English) languages, will have even more opportunities and better pay.
But how does this impact San Marcos?
The Hispanic population is rising in San Marcos. With that rise comes both challenges and opportunities. Hispanics from economically disadvantaged backgrounds drop out of high school at a higher rate than the general population. As a result – there is a growing “gap” between today’s educational attainment in San Marcos and projections for the future. This non-attainment affects our local demographics – the statistics used by site selectors for business relocations and growth and expansion decisions. It affects everything from the grocery stores we have to shop in to the retail stores that choose to locate here. It affects the types of employers that choose to locate here and where the employees that choose to work here decide to leave. It affects each and every one of us.
The consequences of failure to reverse this trend are enormous. A report by State Demographer Dr. Steve Murdoch warns that if more Texans do not achieve higher levels of degree completion, Texas stands to lose up to $40 billion in annual household income by 2040. For San Marcos, an estimated average $4000 reduction in annual household income would cost our community an estimated $59 million of income annually. Historically, Hispanic students have enrolled in higher education at less than half the rate of Anglos. With the increasing proportion of Hispanic children who will eventually grow to adulthood, it is critical to our future to increase not only the number but also the rate of Hispanic college attendance and graduation.
There are two ways to look at the glass – half empty or half full. Remember that those speaking two global languages have more opportunities for better pay, especially when coupled with an education. We have a vast talent pool that has yet to be tapped into. But it will take a concerted effort by this community to help those children and their families see that the American Dream IS for them and CAN come true. It will take targeted messages. And it will take mentors.
Research increasingly indicates that children who succeed, despite often enormous personal, economic or social obstacles, do so because of caring, competent adults who believe in them. Mentoring outcomes are reciprocal: mentors attest to enhanced self image and self esteem, fulfilling expression of personal values and accrue cultural capital and a diverse perspective.
The Mentoring USA Evaluation Summary surveyed over 140 individuals (mentors and site coordinators) involved with their mentoring program. The following changes in the child’s (mentee’s) attitudes and behaviors were reported as a result of the one-to-one mentoring relationship:
• 83% reported increased ability of the child to express emotion
• 79% reported increased child participation in activities and socialization
• 77% reported the child showed increased confidence
• 73% reported the child showed an improved connectedness to the group
• 72% reported an improvement in the child’s relationship with peers
• 68% reported an increase in the child’s show of respect for others
• 63% reported an increase in the child’s ability to form relationships
• 56% reported the child’s attitude toward school improved
• 54% reported the child’s ability to effectively resolve conflict improved
The question is not whether you have the time. It is – can you really afford not to find the time? We owe it to ourselves to reverse the current trend and create a real change that causes all children in San Marcos to reach their fullest potential. The San Marcos Chamber of Commerce’s Mentors Make a Difference program is a great way to invest approximately one hour a week and begin to make a real difference right here in San Marcos. We need you! Call the Chamber at 512-393-5900 for more information on how to become a mentor, or go online to http://www.sanmarcostexas.com and click on the mentor application.
PHYLLIS SNODGRASS is the San Marcos Area Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer.Email | Print