Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Empowering Chicana/o and Latina/o High School Students: A Guide for School Counselors

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Empowering Chicana/o and Latina/o High School Students: A Guide for School Counselors

Article excerpt

Empowerment is a significant construct for youth of color, particularly Chicana/o and Latina/o students (Hipolito-Delgado & Zion, 2015). Feelings of empowerment are related to psychological well-being, academic engagement, and academic performance in youth of color (Molix & Bettencourt, 2010; Ozer & Schotland, 2011), all of which are vital constructs for the academic, career, and personal/social success of Chicana/o and Latina/o youth. Recognizing the positive outcomes associated with empowerment, theorists have called for empowerment theory to guide the work of school counselors (Hipolito-Delgado & Lee, 2007).

Despite the ample theory explaining empowerment, minimal attention has been given to the strategies necessary to facilitate the empowerment of Chicana/o and Latina/o students at the high school level. To address this gap in the literature and provide school counselors with specific tools for facilitating empowerment, the authors of this research study sought to understand the strategies used by school counselors to promote the empowerment of Chicana/o and Latina/o students. The findings of this study can help school counselors operationalize empowerment practices by addressing the importance of rapport, positive role models, building sociocultural awareness, and encouraging community engagement.


Students and families who have struggled with decades of oppression and marginalization, such as the Chicana/o and Latina/o community, require more than what traditional school counseling theories offer--they need school counselors who are skilled in facilitating empowerment (Holcomb-McCoy, 2007). Furthermore, scholars have argued that school counselors can facilitate Chicana/o and Latina/o students' academic success through personal empowerment strategies (Aviles, Guerrero, Howarth, & Thomas, 1999; Dickson Zamora, Gonzalez, Chun, & Callaghan Leon, 2011; Hipolito-Delgado & Lee, 2007; Padilla, 2013; Stanon-Salazar, 2010). Supporting this point, Ozer and Schotland (2011) found that empowerment contributes to academic engagement and academic performance in youth. Stanton-Salazar (2010) asserted that, by drawing from empowerment theory, school counselors can assist students in navigating the educational arena by providing them with the tools and key resources to aid them in reaching their educational and career goals.

Empowerment theory is rooted in the educational theories of Paulo Freire. Freire emphasized the humanity of the oppressed and rejected the methods of education that serve to keep the oppressed submerged in a reality of passivity and unconscious of their potential as agents of social change (Maldonado, Rhoads, & Buenavista, 2005).

For the purposes of this study, the authors focused on how school counselors promote the personal empowerment of Chicana/o and Latina/o High School Students. Personal empowerment involves formulating several key ideas, including critical consciousness, positive identity, and taking social action (Carr, 2003; Gutierrez, 1995). Although a thorough exploration of empowerment theory is beyond the scope of this article, it briefly presents the empowerment process from a theoretical perspective.

Critical Consciousness

Critical consciousness is a likely first step in the process of personal empowerment, as the awareness of oppression is thought to inspire sociopolitical action (Carr, 2003; Tamanas, 2010). The development of critical conscious ness requires an understanding of how sociopolitical, cultural, and historical forces contribute to the oppression of marginalized communities (Watts, Abdul-Adil, & Pratt, 2002). Further, critical consciousness entails the rejection of propaganda that diminishes perception of oppression (Hipolito-Delgado & Lee, 2007).

Gutierrez (1995) and Hanna, Talley, and Guindon (2000) argued that people from marginalized communities typically possess limited consciousness: sufficient for survival in an oppressive system, but not enough to recognize the systemic barriers that oppress them. …

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