Emotional Rescue

August 27, 2018

Russell Guerrero

Sociologist Victor Rios, keynote speaker at the 2018 SAC Convocation, explains the importance of understanding the lives of marginalized students 

Community Colleges are often the last, best hope for marginalized students. The ones who have had to battle adversity through much of their young lives.  

According to Victor Rios, professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, a community college is the natural landing spot for students who are too old for high school and who do not possess the skill sets to get a job. However, the students’ lives will not be transformed unless they receive emotional support from educators.

Rios was the keynote speaker for San Antonio’s Colleges Fall Convocation. His own story illustrates how the support of a teacher helped transform a gang member with a felony record into an awarding winning academic whose Ted Talk presentation has received more than a million views. 

In his presentation, Rios said marginalized students lead two lives. One at home where they live in dire circumstances, with absent parents and not enough money to pay for basic services such as electricity. And a different life at school, where students shape shift to hide their troubles.   

Rios said it is important to look past the shape shifting identity to recognize the needs of a student. And it is vital to understand the environment the students come from. Rios said research shows that low income high school students need more emotional support to successfully complete school. It is the key to student motivation and transformation.

In addition to providing a caring, nurturing, inclusive environment for learning, Rios said educator projected self-actualization is important. In order to get students on the path to achievement, teachers need to push students into areas outside their comfort zone. For example, telling a student they will need to go to college or get more advanced learning.

To help students who need emotional support, Rios has created Project GRIT (Generating Resilience to Inspire Transformation), a program what works with educators refine leadership, civic engagement, and personal and academic empowerment in young people placed at-risk.

Earlier Dr. Robert Vela, president of SAC, welcomed to faculty and staff to the start of a new academic year. He spoke on how transforming one student’s life has a ripple effect. A successful student will have a positive effect on their family. And that in turn can lead to positive effects on a community.

“It matters what you do,” Dr. Vela said.