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Stories | 08.23.16

The Social Determinants of Education

Juan Salgado, M.U.P., is President and CEO of Instituto del Progreso Latino and an Adler University Trustee.

One of the reasons I support Adler University is because it understands the social determinants of health—that whether people are healthy or successful can be heavily influenced by social, economic and physical environments.

At Instituto del Progreso Latino, we see these same factors have a tremendous impact on one’s success in education as well. While a college degree is key to a prosperous future, nearly 20 percent of our nation’s students do not even attain their high school diplomas.

Typically, those who do not reach high school graduation reside in low-income communities and face substantial barriers that make their educational progress difficult.

This pattern demonstrates a significant failure in our policies and a need for reflection on how we must support schools to integrate resources that address the multitude of issues outside of the classroom so that our students can reach their full potential.

Here at the Instituto Justice and Leadership Academy in Chicago we are working to provide those resources. Our educators work with students who had previously left high school and are now reengaging with their education. Teachers work diligently to build a strong relationship with students, have a deep understanding of their lives outside of the classroom, and help them navigate issues that may arise.

Students are provided clinical psychologists and doctoral psychology students, through Instituto’s partnership with Adler University, to address issues such as drug addiction, family relationships, chronic stress, and other issues. Instituto staff help students to navigate complex situations such as the immigration system or young parenthood.

Beyond the student, an extensive suite of services is available to the entire family such as ESL [English as a Second Language] programs, financial counseling, after-school care for children, and more. These integrated services allow us to serve the whole student, well beyond academic needs, and support the emotional, health, and familial wellbeing that plays a crucial role in the student’s education pathway.

A growing body of evidence has demonstrated that integrated services that support the whole student are a key component to addressing education attainment and social mobility.

Just recently, the Brookings Institute released its findings on a similar program in Boston. The research focused on the cost/benefit of such programs, demonstrating a larger societal return on investment for intensive support systems in schools.

The researchers concluded: “As communities across the country confront enduring achievement gaps and growing populations of low-income students, connecting children to comprehensive resources that meet their needs will become even more urgent. The moral and social costs of the status quo have long been apparent.”

We know there are social, political, economic and environmental factors holding back so many of our children. We must address those issues head on and dedicate the necessary resources to give students the tools to move well beyond high school and further into bright futures.

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