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Latinos head to college at a record rate, now on par with white students

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For Elizabeth Garcia, who just finished her first year at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., going to college had been her dream since elementary school.

Raised in Palmetto, Fla., Ms. Garcia says she wants to achieve much more than what her neighborhood expects of Latino youths: high rates of violence, teen pregnancy, and high school dropouts. Her fifth-grade teacher told her she should consider becoming a plumber, because no college would ever accept her.

She realized how hard she would have to work to get into college, and she found support in high school teachers and her parents, who immigrated to the US from Guatemala and Mexico before she was born.

“From a young age, my parents would give us money if we got straight As,” Garcia says. But when Garcia got to high school, her parents could no longer afford to reward her good grades. By then, she says, “the will and determination to do well had already been instilled in me.”

Garcia’s college-going experience – attending a four-year private university full time, on a full-ride scholarship – isn’t the typical Latino college experience.

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