2nd Opinion: Grads represent leadership potential_51605

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Posted: 5/13/05

Grads represent leadership potential

By Albert Reyes

In just a few weeks, thousands of our youth will participate in high school and university commencement exercises all over Texas. In fact, Baptist University of the Americas will graduate 76 students, our highest number in our 58-year history. Commencement exercises also are being held at San Marcos Baptist Academy, Baylor University, Dallas Baptist University, East Texas Baptist University, Howard Payne University, Hardin-Simmons University, Houston Baptist University, Wayland Baptist University and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. These new graduates represent leadership potential for our families, our congregations and for our communities across Texas.

Texas Baptists share in the blessing of commencement exercises through their participation in the Texas Cooperative Program that invests into the lives of our students. Through the Cooperative Program, we impact more students together than we could alone. We thank the Lord for the lives of each graduate and his or her family. To some degree, our future is in their hands.

At BUA, we celebrate the accomplishments of each graduate, and then we turn our attention to goals of the fall semester. The demand for our students is very high, and the supply is quite low. We are working diligently to meet the need for cross-cultural Christian leaders equipped in a predominantly Hispanic context.

This challenge becomes even more daunting when we realize that the high school dropout rate for Hispanics in Texas is over 50 percent. Only 9 percent of Hispanic students in Texas attain a college-level education, versus 21 percent for African-American students, 34 percent for Anglo-American students, and 54 percent among Asian-American students.

Significantly high dropout rates for Hispanics impact our society on many levels. Hispanics enter the workforce less prepared and less educated for their careers. They are unable to earn wages needed to sustain their families, they produce less income, and they produce less tax revenue for our city, county, state and federal governments. A Hispanic high school graduate will earn $200,000 more than a dropout in his or her lifetime. A Hispanic with a bachelor's degree will earn $600,000 more in his or her lifetime. And a Hispanic with a master's degree will earn $1.7 million more in his or her lifetime. Hispanics with bachelor's degrees pay twice as much in taxes, and those with a master's degree pay three times as much in taxes.

Educational opportunities where students can learn in a faith-oriented context pose the best methods for impacting a student, a family and perhaps a generation of future Texas Baptists.

So what would happen if Texas Baptists committed themselves to a zero-tolerance posture for high school dropouts among our Texas Baptist youth? What if we determined that, as a family of Texas Baptists, we would not allow any more of our students to drop out of high school? We would provide a constant flow of freshmen for our Texas Baptist universities, and we would change the lives of the next generation of Texas Baptists.

I am very encouraged that the Baptist General Convention of Texas' Christian Education Coordinating Board has passed a recommendation that will be presented to our Executive Board May 24, calling for a task force to study the Hispanic high school dropout issue. If approved by the Executive Board, the presidents of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas will jointly appoint a 15-member task force to study this issue and develop recommendations to address this issue with solutions aimed at Hispanic students.

Please pray for the Executive Board as they consider this recommendation.

It could impact our future!

Albert Reyes, president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, is president of Baptist University of the Americas in San Antonio.

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