Poniendose las pilas: A critical discourse analysis of first-time-in-college Latino male experiences in a comprehensive academic enrichment program at a large, public, Hispanic-serving institution in Texas
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Scholars and practitioners continue to work on issues of access, retention, and attainment for students enrolled at institutions of higher education. Students matriculate to college with a set of personal characteristics including gender, race, ethnicity, first generation status, and socio-economic status, that influence their academic performance. The first year of college offers a set of distinct challenges that affect a student’s academic and social integration to college and, ultimately, their level of academic success. Postsecondary institutions develop programs with the intention of better supporting students throughout their collegiate experience from freshman year to graduation. Marginalized populations, due largely to cultural differences, socio-economic concerns, and past experiences, have greater difficulties in achieving academic success in college, particularly in their first year. This study sought to examine the way in which first-time-in-college Latino males spoke about their experience participating in a comprehensive academic enrichment program and how it influenced their first-year in college at a large, public, Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) in Texas. The results from the study revealed that the pre-college experiences of participants influenced their institutional involvement and motivation to succeed. The Spanish colloquial phrase of ponte las pilas, meaning get your act together, served as a testament to the attitude verbalized by a participant and generally exhibited by the others that inspired their success in the first-year. The findings of this study have implications for large public institutions, first-year experience programs, and future research related to Latino males.