Juntos 4-H: Connecting Latino youth and families to higher education opportunities in Colorado

Juntos 4-H participants at a graduation ceremony
Juntos 4-H helps Latino youth (grades 8 – 12) and their families gain the knowledge and skills they need to bridge the gap between high school and higher education.

According to the 2020 US Census, 22% of the population of Colorado identifies as Hispanic/Latino. Of students enrolled in Colorado public schools, nearly one-third are Hispanic/Latino. As this community continues to grow, Colorado 4-H is launching a new program to engage with Latino families around the state: Juntos 4-H.

Juntos 4-H helps Latino youth (grades 8 – 12) and their families gain the knowledge and skills they need to bridge the gap between high school and higher education. Originally developed by North Carolina State University in 2007 as the Juntos program, Juntos 4-H was adopted by National 4-H Council in 2015. Colorado 4-H launched Juntos in fall 2021 with a pilot program in Douglas County.

An opportunity to engage the largest underserved community in Colorado

“Juntos 4-H represents an opportunity to serve Latino youth and their family members in Colorado, the largest underserved community in the state,” said Ruben Flores, Colorado State University Extension 4-H Specialist and statewide Juntos 4-H lead. “The program works with both youth and parents/family members to assist youth in graduating from high school and pursuing higher education.”

The program is made up of four components: family engagement nights aimed at educating youth and families about pathways to higher ed, Juntos 4-H programming designed specifically for Latino youth, weekly one-on-one success coaching/mentoring and Summer Academy, a preview of the on-campus college experience. Sessions are conducted in Spanish with English translations available.

Dr. Lindsey Shirley, Assistant Vice President for Engagement and Extension and Deputy Director of Extension, emphasized the importance of engaging with underserved communities across the state.

“Programs like Juntos, co-created in partnership with families and local communities, illustrates how Colorado State University expands access to higher education through inclusive educational experiences that support the changing needs of families today,” said Shirley.

Addressing a gap in services

In Douglas County, where Colorado 4-H launched the Juntos pilot program, Latino students have the highest high school dropout rate of any ethnic group and many do not pursue higher education.

“There is a gap in services in Douglas County for Latino families,” said Kyle Christensen, Douglas County Extension Director. “Navigating college applications and scholarship opportunities is challenging for any family. If there is also a language barrier in this process—well, good luck.”

Mary Ortiz Castro, Douglas County Extension Program Associate and one of the Juntos 4-H program leads, understands the barriers youth and families face.

“As a former international student, I know how hard it can be to navigate higher education, especially if you do not have any guidance from someone knowledgeable,” said Ortiz Castro.

Families participating in Juntos 4H programming
Colorado 4-H launched a Juntos 4-H pilot program in Douglas county.

“Hemos necesitado este tipo de programa en nuestra comunidad durante mucho tiempo. We have needed this type of program in our community for a long time,” said a Juntos participant. “In Douglas County, there is a generalization that everyone comes from an affluent and well-educated family. There are not many resources or organizations focused on this type of work. We need Juntos so that we can build a community of support and help our kids achieve their goals regardless of their family’s financial situation.”

Another participant referred to the program as “un milagro”—a miracle.

A Juntos 4-H participant referred to the program as “un milagro”—a miracle.

A model for expansion across Colorado

The Douglas County Extension pilot program aims to serve as a model for further expansion to other counties across Colorado. Colorado 4-H hosted a training in September with experts from North Carolina State University for other Colorado counties interested in implementing the program.

Faith Kroschel, CSU Extension 4-H Agent in Boulder County, attended the training.

“The Juntos training provided a way to envision the possibilities of how we can engage with the Latino population in a way that is really impactful for them,” said Kroschel. “Boulder County values diversification in the community and we need the younger generation to feel that they belong in their broader community.”

Juntos 4-H training in September. 

For Director of Colorado 4-H Jean Glowacki, Juntos 4-H is a step closer to achieving the 4-H vision of improving access, equity, and opportunity for underrepresented youth.

“In order to achieve this vision, 4-H must reflect the more diverse nature of our population,” said Glowacki.

Colorado 4-H empowers youth to reach their full potential by working and learning in partnership with caring adults. 4-H programs provide opportunities for youth to learn, practice and apply knowledge and abilities to prepare them for success in higher education, career and life.

Learn more and get involved

Learn how Colorado 4-H is engaging underserved youth through a variety of programs across the state, including 4-H’s recent partnership with CSU’s Little Shop of Physics and Soccer Without Borders to bring STEM education to immigrant and refugee youth in Weld County.

Colorado 4-H is supported by CSU Extension, a division of the Office of Engagement and Extension.

About the Office of Engagement and Extension

Colorado State University’s Office of Engagement and Extension delivers on its land-grant mission by making the university’s educational programs, services and resources accessible to all, enabling individuals to act as agents of change and together build thriving communities across Colorado and beyond. Learn more at engagement.colostate.edu