Two leaders from a series of historic civil rights protests will be speaking at Las Positas College on Sept. 8.
Bobby Lee Verdugo and Yolanda Rios were student organizers during the 1968 East L.A. student walkouts, a youth civil rights movement demanding educational reform for Latinos. At that time, the high school dropout rate for Latino students was nearly 60%. Those that did graduate averaged an 8th-grade reading level. They were more likely to be shuffled off for vocational training than encouraged to attend college, and some were relegated to classes for the mentally disabled despite having no actual disability.
At some schools, students faced corporal punishment for speaking Spanish in class.
“Coming together to protest was huge back in 1968,” said LPC counselor Rafael Valle. “Bobby Verdugo and Yolanda Rios’ actions started an important conversation about educational tracking of students of color and reduced tracking at the high school level, and created opportunities for Latino students to go to college rather than being steered into vocational fields.”
As a result of the walkouts, schools now offer bilingual and bicultural classes for Latino students, and have broadened the focus of American history classes.
“More colleges include Latin American history in their curriculum, providing another venue of factual history in the United States,” Valle said.
Despite the gains triggered by the walkouts, Latino students still face hurdles in the educational system. They do not graduate at the same rate as white students, and predominately white college faculties lead many to feel underrepresented.
Valle said LPC students have the ability to help even the playing field.
“The students at LPC can transfer to a four-year school, finish their education, become aware, and give back to their communities, whether that is by becoming educators themselves or mentoring young people,” Valle said. “Students should also of course attend the Bobby Verdugo and Yolanda Rios talk and learn their history and the history of the educational system today, and pursue educational equality always.”
The Verdugo and Rios event will be happening on Monday, Sept. 8, at 2:30 p.m. The exact location will be announced soon.