Portraits of Hispanic females who have returned to complete their high school diplomas after dropping out

Maria Teresa Cortez, University of Texas at El Paso


Hispanic high school students are dropping out of high school at a higher rate than Anglo or African American students (United States Department of Education Webpage, 2001) and the problem is likely to increase as the population increases. The Hispanic population is among the fastest-growing subgroups in the United States (U.S. Department of Education, 2001). States along the border are expected to experience a considerable increase among Hispanic students. A large proportion of these students will leave school before they earn a high school diploma. Given the population projections, minority high school dropout statistics are not likely to decrease unless educational leaders and policymakers learn how to better address the issues as they pertain to Hispanic female students. This study analyzed the significance of the events that led the young females to drop out of high school and return through a description, interpretation, and relationship of their educational experiences. The purpose for this study is to determine the factors motivating Hispanic female high school dropouts to return to school and to complete their high school diploma. In particular, the areas of interest are (1) reasons dropouts give for leaving school; (2) types of help they received before they dropped out and when they dropped back into high school; (3) what influenced or motivated them to return to high school; (4) how far they have progressed in their education; (5) what are their aspirations for education and future employment. The focus on this study were three female Hispanic students, between the ages of 18 and 21, and who were enrolled in a dropout recovery program in one school district located on the U.S./Mexico border. One participant is a student who has recently returned to high school, another is midway through completing her high school curriculum and the last participant is almost ready to graduate. Data was gathered through a series of semi-structured interviews, using a qualitative methodological approach known as portraiture. Portraiture is a method framed by the traditions and values of the phenomenological paradigm, sharing many of the techniques, standards, and goals of ethnography. The questions were designed to understand the students' views on self-perception, family, school, peers, educational values and interventions as they perceive them. The results of the study found that each student was looking for support, nurturing, and assurance that she can set goals and can find it within herself to succeed and finish her high school education. They all value education, but the reason for each is different. Dreams of work, family, higher education motivate them to persevere. They found this motivation from different sources, largely from their mothers—but most importantly, they found it within themselves to return to school This study was a glimpse into the numerous obstacles that Hispanic female high school dropouts overcome in completing their high-school education. It builds an awareness of the problems inherent with running a public educational system with a status quo mindset. This study has uncovered a few of the problems encountered by students with “the system” by building an awareness of the cultural aspects that Hispanic females bring to their education that can affect successful completion of their high school education.

Subject Area

School administration|Womens studies|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Cortez, Maria Teresa, "Portraits of Hispanic females who have returned to complete their high school diplomas after dropping out" (2002). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3049698.