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Awards and Honors

White House Lauds Juntos Program

A NC State program to empower Hispanic youth to succeed in high school was recently named a “Bright Spot in Hispanic Education” by a White House initiative.

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, designed to address educational disparities faced by the Hispanic community in the United States, selected Juntos (pronounced “who-n-toes”) as one of the signature programs, models, organizations and initiatives helping to close the achievement gap.

Meaning “together” in Spanish, Juntos unites community partners, parents and schools in helping Latino youth, many of whom are struggling in school. The goal is to encourage them to achieve high school success, graduate on time, and pursue college education.

Developed in 2007 by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, an outreach program of NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Juntos has since expanded to Iowa, Oklahoma, and Oregon. And a $2 million grant awarded earlier this year by the National 4-H Council will launch the program in New York City; San Antonio, Texas; and one other U.S. city.

In announcing the 2015 honorees, Alejandra Ceja, the White House initiative’s executive director, said, “There has been notable progress in Hispanic educational achievement, and it is due to the efforts of these Bright Spots in Hispanic Education, programs and organizations working throughout the country to help Hispanic students reach their full potential.”

An online catalog that lists the honored programs calls Juntos “an invaluable asset to the North Carolina Latino communities.”

“Through success coaching/mentoring, family workshops, 4-H club meetings and educational and leadership camps, the organization has closed the educational achievement gap for thousands of Hispanic students in the United States,” the catalog says.

In North Carolina, Juntos serves more than 600 Latino youth and parents across numerous counties. Andrew Behnke, Cintia Aguilar and Diana Urieta, of NC State’s Department of Youth, Family and Community Sciences, lead the program.

Behnke, an associate professor, says that research shows that Juntos has “a significant positive influence on the lives of Latino youth.”

“Their grades are better, their attendance goes up, they participate in fewer risky behaviors, and parent involvement is off the charts,” he adds. “These youth and families are empowered to dream bigger and go farther, and we do it Juntos.”