COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., (KRDO) -- According to data, high school graduation rates are improving in the Hispanic community despite the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented in the past two years.
Hispanic students now make up more than a third of students in Colorado schools. From 2010 to 2020, Latino high school graduation rates rose by 75-percent, according to Chalkbeat which examined high school graduation rates as a part of Chasing Progress, a Colorado News Collaborative Project.
However, there's been a slight decline in rates within the last year and it's highlighting the importance of setting students up for success well before graduation day.
A University of Colorado, Colorado Springs told KRDO he hopes his success story serves as proof the special pre-collegiate programs work.
Christopher Alexander arrived in the U.S. In 2015 knowing very little English. At that time, his only hope was to graduate from Harrison High School.
"When I came from Mexico, my English wasn't that good so I had to relearn English again and it was a whole process, and I had to study twice as the rest of my classmates," said Alexander, "I didn't have a plan to go to college or a university, I went to Harrison high school and there they taught me and gave me advice on what to do," said Alexander.
Alexander credits pre-collegiate programs, like the one offered at UCCS which aims to help minorities get to college, and now is giving back by working for the program as an advisor himself.
"I was excited and I was like I would be the first one in my family to go to college and make them proud," said Alexander.
Though the rates went up in this group in the last decade, Jim Chavez, executive director of the Latin American Educational Foundation fears challenges during the pandemic could affect future students.
"During the pandemic over the last three years, the Hispanic Latino families, in particular, had a much, much harder economic blow," said Chavez.
Chavez says the work isn't done to help students in the next decade continue upward.
With pre-collegiate programs offered across Southern Colorado, students have the opportunity to gain college credit while still enrolled in high school and achieve better heights.
The Hispanic graduation rate decreased by about one percent last year. This is attributed to the pandemic with job loss, illness, and deaths, which all disrupted learning.