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Latino youth develop life, literacy skills to prepare for higher education

Urbana, Ill -- The Juntos™ Program through Illinois 4-H empowers Latino youth to support each other throughout high school and as they prepare to enter higher education.  Students and their families gain the knowledge and resources necessary for future academic success.

The Juntos Program started in 2007 at NC State University as a direct response to the need to unify schools, families, and community efforts to prevent school dropouts and promote students’ access to higher education.  The core tenets of the program focus on family engagement with parents, 4-H Club connections, one-on-one mentoring, and summer programming to support its goals.

“Fostering high-quality, successful parent involvement has been a struggle for schools across the state.  Research shows that family engagement is a huge factor in student success,” says Maria E. Gutiérrez, University of Illinois Extension Juntos 4-H program coordinator.  “The program includes the family engagement component which focuses on communication skills, allowing parents to actively engage in their students' post-secondary pathway with the ultimate goal to pursue higher education.”   

While the program focuses on academic achievement, helping youth feel empowered in their daily lives is also a key principle.

“Youth gain confidence and are encouraged to take on proactive leadership roles with the guidance of their mentor/leader,” says Gutiérrez. “It is all about empowering our youth.” 

As a result of participating in Juntos 4‑H, students report a greater sense of belonging and confidence in their futures, with immediate successes seen in grade improvement.

“We’ve seen really great outcomes from this program,” says Gutiérrez. “Almost 90% of participants said they feel like they now belong in school and that the program helped them belong at school.  Over 90% improved their grades and now feel confident that they will graduate from high school.”

Parents who have taken part in the program have seen success and have gained valuable information as a result.

“The Juntos program has helped us a lot because we did not know about scholarships, the enrollment process, and exams that my daughter will be taking,” says Maria Jimenez, parent of a Morton West High School student that took part in the program. “She will be the first one to graduate from the family and so the Juntos program has helped us a lot and we have learned a lot. “

Those that are interested in learning more can contact Maria Gutiérrez at or their local Extension office.

About Juntos: Juntos (pronounced “Who-n-toes”) means “Together” in Spanish and works to unite community partners to provide Latino 8-12th grade students and their parents with knowledge, skills and resources to prevent youth from dropping out and to encourage families to work together to make college a family goal. Juntos empowers students and their families to gain the knowledge and resources necessary for academic success via four components: Family Engagement; 4-H Clubs; Success Coaching and Mentoring; and a Juntos Summer Academy.

About Illinois 4-H: Illinois 4-H is the flagship youth development program of University of Illinois Extension and administered through the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences. 4-H grows true leaders, youth who are empowered for life today and prepared for a career tomorrow. The hands-on approach in 4-H gives young people guidance, tools, and encouragement, and then puts them in the driver’s seat to make great things happen. Independent research confirms the unparalleled impact of the 4-H experience, demonstrating that young people are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs. 

About Extension:  Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. 

SourceMaria Gutiérrez, Juntos 4-H Program Coordinator,

Writer:  Carissa Nelson, Media Communications Manager, 4-H State Office,