These dreams didn’t involve back-breaking physical work or living paycheck to paycheck. Similar conversations played out with parents and children throughout their community, instilling in these young people a drive to achieve. Yet, when these same students went to high school with the highest aspirations of any students, they were the least likely to access the courses they needed to go to college.
Tavares grew up in Sunnyside, Washington, about a half-hour from Yakima. The daughter of immigrants, she’s now a first-generation Ph.D. student at the University of Washington focused on Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.
Having internalized the migration stories of her parents and grandparents and having seen how capitalism has broken down their bodies, she wants to manifest something different.
"I always knew I would work with immigrant and Spanish-speaking families to imagine a new world," she says.
Making Crucial Connections
"Quantitative data tells us what the problem is but doesn't say why it's happening so that we can pinpoint and address the root causes," says Jenée Myers Twitchell, Washington STEM's chief policy and impact officer and a UW College of Education alumna. As part of Washington STEM's work to create pathways to high-paying technology-centered jobs for historically excluded students, they and their regional and school district partners wanted to learn more about a pattern of inequity in the Yakima Valley.
Tavares would turn out to be just the researcher they needed. The University of Washington’s Unite:Ed, an alliance of community and education partners, connected Tavares with Washington STEM through its Community Partner Fellows (CFP) program.
“Our Community Partner Fellows program helps us grow our partners' capacity for community-based research,” says Unite:Ed’s director, Dana Arviso. “It also provides an opportunity for our Ph.D. students to gain real world experience while applying their research skills.”
Since its inception in 2018, the program has placed more than 34 University of Washington College of Education doctoral students into community organizations advancing educational justice. Based on individual research and practice interests, CFPs have helped to bridge opportunity gaps in college readiness, after-school programs, mental health services, digital engagement and more.
Tavares joined Washington STEM in the fall of 2020 as its second Unite:Ed CFP to date. Together with the Washington STEM team, she spent the next two years supporting their research-practice partnership (RPP) Dual Credit Equity Project with Eisenhower High School in Yakima. Specifically, they wanted to discover why, in a school where 70 percent of the student body identifies as Latinx and 25 percent are categorized as English language learners, these same students were the least likely to access dual credit courses, including advanced placement (AP) classes. In addition to being an inexpensive way to earn college credit while in high school, these courses also increase the likelihood that students will go on to college.