The desire to persist : voices of first generation Latino community college students

Community college students begin their higher education studies with the goal of completing an associate’s degree, a certificate, transferring, or improving/obtaining employment skills. Students do not begin higher education thinking they will depart from the institution without completing their goals, but the current reality is that every year more and more Latino community college students are withdrawing. Rendon’s (1994) validation theory focuses on a series of in-and-out of classroom experiences with family, peers, faculty members, and staff through which students come to feel that everything they bring to the community college is important and valuable. Students’ sense of validation, both inside and outside the community college, is critical as it influences whether students persist or depart from the institution. When students do not experience validation, they are confronted with invalidation and become doubtful about their place within the institution, which can ultimately lead to institutional withdrawal. This phenomenological qualitative study analyzes the educational experiences of eight first generation, low-income, Latino students from farmworker families. Among the participants, four persisted at the community college and four withdrew. Among the participants that withdrew, they experienced invisibility, invalidation and marginalization, which ultimately led to their departure. Although the persister’s also encountered invisibility, invalidation, and marginalization, they had such experiences reversed with visibility, carmo/critical hope and validation. Invalidation wounds can be reversed when students are nurtured and treated with carino. Such reality highlights the responsibility of everyone at the comm(unity) college to validate students because validation leads to student persistence.