José Alcalá Martínez is studying high school dropout rates, a subject that is near to his heart. Two of his close friends left school as juniors to start working full-time and his mother didn’t finish high school. At one point, he considered leaving school as well, but instead he is studying graduation rates across race and states, aiming to inspire change.
Alcalá Martínez and classmates from Boulder and Centaurus High Schools presented their research and social action projects at CU Boulder this month as part of the Pathways2Teaching gallery walk at the University Memorial Center.
Founded in 2010 by CU Denver Professor Margarita Bianco, Pathways2Teaching is a concurrent enrollment program for 11th and 12th grade students to explore issues in education, social justice and equity, and teaching as a potential career choice. The program has served hundreds of students in Denver metro schools and through an affiliate program in Oregon. Many graduates go on to enroll in teacher education programs or related areas such as social work.
Over the past year, Bianco and CU Boulder’s Terrenda White, assistant professor of educational foundations, policy and practice, have teamed up to expand the program into new schools — including Boulder and Centaurus High Schools. White aims to broaden research on recruitment and retention of students and teachers of color, with support from a CU Boulder Outreach and Engagement Award. School of Education doctoral students Wagma Mommandi and Brian Lightfoot have been working with BVSD teachers, Michelle Carpenter and Julie Ascarrunz, and students to examine critical issues related to educational justice and help students earn college credit towards teacher education programs.
For many students in Pathways2Teaching, the curriculum is personal. Beyond the data, Alcalá Martínez’s project involved interviewing his uncle and mother. As he continues to thrive in high school and Pathways2Teaching, he knows he is inspiring his family and friends. “My mom tells me all the time that she’s proud of me,” he said.