Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Experiences of Latino Children Attending Rural Elementary Schools in the Southeastern U.S.: Perspectives from Latino Parents in Burgeoning Latino Communities

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Experiences of Latino Children Attending Rural Elementary Schools in the Southeastern U.S.: Perspectives from Latino Parents in Burgeoning Latino Communities

Article excerpt

A qualitative study, using focus groups of Latino parents living in a rural Southeastern U.S. community, was conducted to explore the experiences of elementary-school-aged Latino children. Using the consensual qualitative research method to analyze participants' responses, this study identified four general themes that impact Latino children in these communities: (a) school/teacher characteristics and resources, (b) academic experiences in U.S. schools, (c) family and cultural traits, and (d) personal/social/economic factors. Implications for school counselors are detailed.


Between 1990 and 2000, the Latino population grew by at least 250% in many Southeastern states (Hamann, Wortham, & Murillo, 2002; U.S. Census Bureau, 2003). Specifically, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee all experienced increases over 300% in their Latino population in the past 15 years (Pew Hispanic Center, 2005). Unlike past Latino residents who temporarily lived in these states mostly as migrant or seasonal laborers, Latinos are now settling more permanently (Pew Hispanic Center). What makes this Latino diaspora (Hamann et al.) increasingly unique is that these individuals are electing to move to and settle in rural communities within these Southeastern states.

Educators (including school counselors) working in Southeastern schools in rural settings have been caught off guard by the influx of Latino children and adolescents into their schools (Wortham & Contreras, 2002). Where once rural educators served significant numbers of White and African American students, there now are growing numbers of Latino children. According to Wortham and Contreras, school personnel working in the rural Latino diaspora have been ill-equipped to address barriers to academic and personal/social development of Latino children, including English-as-a-second-language needs, immigration status concerns, and working with parents who do not speak English.

A study was conducted using parent interviews to examine the academic and personal/social experiences of Latino elementary school children in Southeastern U.S. rural schools located in burgeoning Latino communities. The decision to ask parents for their perspectives was based on the personal knowledge most parents have of their young children's school experiences and the interest most Latino parents have regarding their children's education (Delgado-Gaitan, 1992; Santiago-Rivera, Arredondo, & Gallardo-Cooper, 2002; Valdez, 1996).


The study was conducted with Latino parents from a Southeastern U.S. state that experienced a Latino population increase greater than 400% between 1990 and 2000 (U.S. Census Bureau, n.d.). Nine Latino parents (3 males and 6 females) living in a rural, burgeoning Latino community elected to participate in this study. All participants worked in the local agricultural or service industry sector and all currently had children attending local elementary schools. Participants had all lived in urban settings (e.g., Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Dallas) prior to moving to this rural community. Parents in this study had been in the United States for at least 2 years but no more than 32 (M = 14.7 years). Participants were divided into two focus groups. One group was composed of three married couples. The second group included three married women, who elected to attend the group without their husbands. Each focus group lasted 90 minutes, was audio recorded, and was conducted in Spanish by the first author.

Both recordings were first translated into English and transcribed for data analysis. Focus group transcripts were analyzed using consensual qualitative research (CQR; Hill et al., 2005; Hill, Thompson, & Williams, 1997). The chief goal of CQR is to establish consensus in data sets (i.e., focus group transcripts) by determining common themes. Consensus using CQR is achieved by having multiple researchers develop common themes from the data, followed by describing the general domains represented in each theme. …

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