Former, Current Warner School Researchers Publish Book to Help Support the Educational Needs of Rochester’s Latina/o Students

The Plight of InvisibilityA new book by former Warner School of Education faculty members Donna Marie Harris, currently an independent consultant to school districts and non-profit organizations, and Judy Marquez Kiyama, currently an assistant professor of higher education at the University of Denver, aims to address the immediate and persistent educational challenges confronted by Latina/o students in Rochester, N.Y.
The book, The Plight of Invisibility: A Community-Based Approach to Understanding the Educational Experiences of Urban Latina/os, was published in the Critical Studies of Latinos/as in the Americas series, by Peter Lang Publishing. Warner School Associate Professor Nancy Ares, alumni Sandra Quiñones '97 (BA), '98W (MS), '12W (PhD) and Amalia Dache-Gerbino '14W (PhD), current doctoral students Thomas Noel Jr. and Vicki T. Sapp, and Rochester City School District (RCSD) Superintendent Bolgen Vargas have contributed chapters in The Plight of Invisibility.
In the second chapter, Ares and Hilda Rosario Escher, president and CEO of the Ibero-Action League (Ibero), provide a historical overview of the challenges Latina/o students have confronted in Rochester’s elementary and secondary schools over three decades and how concerns about these issues resulted in the creation of the Latina/o Education Task Force by Ibero in 2008. Ibero had previously conducted community-based focus groups that determined what the Rochester-based agency should focus on as part of its ongoing efforts to advocate for and promote the visibility of Latina/o community needs locally. However, the District had paid little attention, though Ibero’s reports provided evidence of over 30 years of harmful educational invisibility.
“Among many recommendations, there was one loud and clear message:  The agency needed to put together a task force of different community stakeholders to continue to advocate for improvement in the education system and provide information, recommendations, and ‘gritos’ for action,” explained Ares and Escher. “This time, though, they began a partnership with researchers from the University of Rochester to engage in a rigorous and systematic study of the community, drawing on the ‘perceived’ power of the university to sway school district policy and action.”
Work on the study, "School Experiences of Latina/o Students: A Community-Based Study of Resources, Challenges, and Success" which led to the writing of this book, began in 2008. Harris and Kiyama co-directed the study of both the resources that promote success as well as the barriers that limit and derail schooling for Latina/o students. Other members of Warner’s research team included: Ares, Quiñones, Dache-Gerbino, Emily Martinez Vogt ‘14W (PhD), and current doctoral students Anibal Soler, Dwayne Campbell, and Monica Miranda.
The Plight of Invisibility offers unique contributions that inform the use of a community-based research approach to examine educational issues identified by urban, Latina/o communities. It offers a new perspective (Latinas/os themselves) to understand students’ circumstances in schools as they navigate culturally and socially unresponsive social systems that are often barriers, thus rendering Latina/o students and their families invisible. Despite these challenges, the book offers examples of community programs and resources that address the needs of Latina/o students as they continue to build resiliency and determination to persist.
The book is intended for community organizations and advocates, educational researchers, practitioners, students, and policymakers working to reframe deficit discourses about Latina/o students and their families. It is also appropriate for college/university-level courses focused on community-based research, educational policy, college access, and Latina/o studies.
The Education Task Force, which includes members from Ibero, local educators, community members, students and parents, and former/current University of Rochester researchers and authors, will host a community reception and book signing event, sponsored by the University’s Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center and La Cumbre/Latinos United for Progress, at the Barnes & Noble at University of Rochester (1305 Mt. Hope Avenue) from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, April 10.

Media Contact: Theresa Danylak
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Tags: Ibero, Ibero-American Action League, Latina/o Academic Achievement, Latina/o teens, Nancy Ares