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Bibles and Scholarships: Helping Hispanics Stay in School

Bibles and Scholarships: Helping Hispanics Stay in School

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WASHINGTON -- More minority students now attend U.S. public schools than white students, including 13 million Hispanic students, according to the Pew Research Center.

Yet Latino church leaders are concerned because so many of these Hispanic students drop out of high school. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the Hispanic high school drop out rate stands at 13 percent compared to 8 percent for blacks and 4 percent for whites.

The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which represents 40,000 U.S. churches, has launched a new education initiative to address the Hispanic education gap.

It includes a website  and parent tool kit. The NCHCLC has also begun a program called "Becas and Bibles," which encourages churches to give children Bibles and seed money for scholarships when they are baptized or christened.

NHCLC spokesman Rev. Tony Suarez said it's important that followers of Christ pursue the highest levels of education so that they can spread the Gospel into all sectors of society.

"Our main message is this is important to us. This is a priority," Suarez told CBN News. "We're salt and light. We're ambassadors for the kingdom of God. We need to finish our education. We need to not only be preachers and missionaries and evangelists but we need to become lawyers and doctors and governors and senators."

Suarez admits that the challenges are significant for many Latino families.

"I think some of it has do to with the immigration issue," he said. "Some of it has to do with parents that have been deported, single parent mothers raising their kids. The sons have to drop out to work because the father is missing at home."

"Some of them, they have never had a family member that has graduated from high school so there is no role model to look to," he added.

For Jeny Martinez, an encouraging high school teacher helped to inspire her to consider college.

"I remember going to high school and there weren't as many Latinos graduating, very few {were} taking AP classes which are advanced classes," she said.

The NHCLC hopes that churches can come alongside families to encouarage them to keep their kids in school.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is an advocate for the Church's involvement.

"The church is the most powerful influence that many of these families will ever have," he told CBN News. "It's the place where they're together. It's the place that influences how they think and how they act."

The Heritage Foundation's senior fellow Mike Gonzalez said research shows a key link between church and school.

"Church attendance is a much better indicator of how a kid will do in school--even if it's not a church school--than the color of his skin," he said.

Maria Rodriguez credits fellow believers at her suburban Washington, D.C., church with encouraging her to get her master's degree.

"What really inspires me is within my church we really have a spirit of excellence and give God--kind of--our best," she said.

Rodriguez also hopes her pursuit will help inspire a new generation.

"I currrently work with the youth in our church and I know that in them seeing, 'Hey, Maria did it, she can do it,' that they can feel motivated as to 'You know what? I can do it.,'" she said.