ÉXITO one year in is a bona fide success

Based simply on production, the first year of ÉXITO – Educational eXcellence and Inclusion Training Opportunities – has been a stunning achievement. Funded by a $3 million U.S. Department of Education Title V grant, the program had five UC Santa Barbara students in its initial cohort. The goal is for these students to graduate with bachelor’s degrees in ethnic studies or feminist studies, prepared to earn master’s degrees and teaching credentials.

The two graduating seniors have been accepted to UCLA’s teacher ed program. Together, the cohort wrote papers they delivered at the prestigious American Educational Research Association conference this April in San Diego. The scholars now are developing a student organization to help attract future cohort members. And, alongside faculty and staff, they have organized a summer institute to occur this June.

But while éxito means success in Spanish, that success isn’t measured in numbers and projects alone. Just ask participant Victoria Rivera.

“Being a first-generation college student is not easy,” Rivera notes. “This system was not built for us, so having people going through the same experiences as me makes me feel like I can get through it.”

Victoria Rivera

Photo by Matt Perko

I am forever grateful to have been given a path to obtain my goals of becoming an ethnic studies high school teacher.
-Victoria Rivera

Furthermore, the Chicano studies major says: “ÉXITO gave me a voice to express the importance of ethnic and feminist studies, which has made my undergraduate experience worth it despite the challenges. I am forever grateful to have been given a path to obtain my goals of becoming an ethnic studies high school teacher.”

Jeffrey Milem, the Jules Zimmer Dean of UCSB’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, lauded the program’s first-year productivity. “People like to talk diversity, equity and inclusion, but ÉXITO is actual frontline action in those areas,” he says. “High schools will now have highly trained ethnic studies teachers. The scholarship around teaching ethnic studies will become more rigorous. And California’s students will reap the rewards.”

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