5th Anniversary of the book Not Getting Stuck

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Dr. Lily (Espinoza) Ploski reflects on the 5th anniversary of her book Not Getting Stuck https://www.amazon.com/Not-Getting-Stuck-Transferring-California/dp/1631320394

Dr. Lily Espinoza, Napa Valley, CA

Dr. Lily Espinoza

Our nation is on the cusp of the Golden Age of Latinos in U.S. Higher Education. For far too long Latinos were left out of the highest levels of education. No more!

It was 5 years ago that Lily first set out to publish her book about Latina community college success. Community college alumna Lily (Espinoza) Ploski, Ed.D, author of the book Not Getting Stuck: Success stories of being Latina and transferring from a California community college reflects on the tremendous sea change that has transpired since the publication of her book.

Lily recalls, “In 2016, anti-Latino sentiment was strong.” The Trump Administration openly condemned the Latino community. In one instance Trump claimed, “When Mexico sends people, they’re not sending their best.”

On top of reinforcing racist stereotypes about Latinos, the Trump administration added to the discontent over the rising costs of higher education by selecting Cabinet members opposed to college affordability programs. Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos refused to honor student loan forgiveness programs and criticized the free-college movement.

Then in 2020, the pandemic made the world come to a standstill. Latino communities were hit hardest first by the economic downturn and then by higher than average rates of infection and COVID deaths.

Coinciding with the public health and economic disasters, intense social unrest arrived in the summer of 2020 with the death of George Floyd. Global protests broke out against police violence and systemic racism in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Now in 2021, the social climate is shifting again with the newly elected President Joe Biden. Latinos face an uphill battle to recover from economic loss, fortunately Biden’s infrastructure plan to build back better addresses systemic barriers for those impacted by the pandemic.

Biden’s administration also tackles a major barrier to Latinos on the path to higher education which is a lack of representation of people of color at the highest level of government. Vice President Kamala Harris is the first women of color to serve in US history. As well, in his first 100 days, Biden has already appointed the most socially diverse Cabinet in our nation’s history.

Another powerful message to the Latino community is representation of English language learners in the Cabinet. The new Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, a Latino former teacher and lifelong educator is an English language learner of Puerto Rican decent. These changes mean new hope for Latinos in higher education.

College affordability is another barrier that the Biden administration is addressing head-on. Now, there is gaining momentum to cancel college debt with each passing day. What a change from 2016!

Now, there is the expansion to make community college tuition-free with programs like College Promise across the nation. Education leaders, like the illustrious Dr. Martha Kanter, are helping to tear down economic barriers that once kept Latinos and other low income groups from accessing higher education. Dr. Kanter said this about the book Not Getting Stuck:

Lily's stories bring home the urgency of providing every student with a promise that an education beyond high school
is possible for success in the workforce and throughout one's life. College Promise continues to make this goal a
reality for our nation's students in hundreds of communities across the country. But we cannot rest. Too many students -- low-income, first generation, students of color -- are left behind. That's our collective fault.

Navigating the ins and outs of college pathways and the barriers to student success is an outcome of this book and
what we all can do to open more doors to, through, and beyond college for every student to advance toward the
American Dream. -- Martha Kanter, CEO, College Promise; U.S. Under Secretary of Education (2009-2013)

Author Dr. Ploski agrees with Dr. Kanter that we can all do more. Dr. Ploski sees her book as a way to help with the recovery from the pandemic and to help the Latino community. Lily observes “The tide is turning on the value and interest in supporting Latino achievement in higher education. Higher education must make up for lost time!”

California’s Chancellor Eloy Oakley, himself a Latino of Mexican decent agrees colleges must do better. In 2017, the Chancellor’s Office set new standards with a Vision of Success Plan for all 116 college campuses, with over 2.1 million students that puts the student learning experience at the center for innovation. Chancellor Oakley confirms the importance of Latinos for economic prosperity “With Latinos accounting for more than 40% of California community college enrollments, their success is critical to the future of California. In the aftermath of the pandemic equity must be at the center of a recovery.”

Another barrier for Latinos has been a lack of support services on the college campus specifically for Latino students. Now, more college campuses are opening Latinx Resource Centers to support Latinx student retention. As well, funding is available as a result of colleges becoming Hispanic Serving Institutions as the Latino student population continues to grow on college campuses. With more Latinos on college campuses, there is a new sense of urgency to support Latino retention and success.

This growth of Latinos at our nation’s colleges means a new era of Latino contributions to our nation. Dr. Ploski makes a prediction, “Our nation is on the cusp of the Golden Age of Latinos in U.S. Higher Education. For far too long Latinos were left out of the highest levels of education. No more!”

In Not Getting Stuck: Success stories on being Latina and transferring from a California community college, students discuss the factors that lead to their personal and academic success. A key factor is building social connections with mentors to make their dreams come true.

Gabriela Chavez-Lopez, President of Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley in California agrees with Dr. Ploski’s research that mentoring for Latinas is the key to success, “If you can see it, you can achieve it! Mentors not only serve as positive role models but as examples of what one can achieve no matter the circumstances and/or perceived barriers. This insight and guidance is particularly important for Latinas as they navigate -- in many instances uncharted waters for themselves, their families, and even their own communities.”

Dr. Ploski views the pandemic as a turning point for Latino student success. She notes, “For the first time in our nation’s history, there is a critical mass of Latino students, staff, faculty and administration in higher education. Latinos are making positive change from the inside out, ground up, and by building a pipeline for more to follow.” Families, students, faculty, and education leaders alike are seeking out culturally relevant resources such as Dr. Ploski’s Latina-themed book on college success.

Dr. Ploski concludes, “In 2016, when I saw the negative perceptions of Latinos in the media and in education circles, I knew I needed to bring Latina student success stories front and center to disrupt the narrative that Latinas did not belong in college. Not only do Latinas belong in college, but we have powerful chingona Latina leaders soaring to new heights every day. There are Latina college presidents, faculty, researchers, campus leaders, star athletes, and scholars at the highest level. Now in 2021, I see my book as providing a ray of light for students and families who have suffered so much throughout this pandemic.”

With the hope of a brighter tomorrow, the stories from Not Getting Stuck: Success stories on being Latina and transferring from a California community college are just what the doctor ordered to motivate and inspire future leaders.

Dr. Lily Ploski is a nationally recognized keynote speaker on college choice and overcoming barriers to education. In 2017, her book was featured on the KPFA radio program La Raza Chronicles. In 2018, Lily came in third when she ran for political office as State Superintendent of Public Instruction in California. Then in 2019, Dr. Ploski was elected Vice Chair for the City of Benicia Arts and Culture Commission. Last year, Dr. Ploski was selected as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for My New Red Shoes and currently serves as Education Advisor to the board. As well, Dr. Ploski served with the 2020 Solano County Women and Girls Commission. At the end of last year, Dr. Ploski took on the position as Director of the Latinx Retention Initiative at University of California, Davis.

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Lily Ploski
Elan Vital Research Group
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