California does not have enough bilingual teachers, and with nearly 1.4 million English learners in the state, this means many students are falling behind. But this is an area that schools are working to fix. With a new five-year grant from the US Department of Education, Fresno State is investing $3.75 million into programs for Latino students set to become teachers in the Valley. The school will recruit students from local high schools and help them get on the right track at Fresno City College, Reedley College, or Fresno State.

Patricia D. Lopez, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction at Fresno State, will oversee this program. “As an institution, we are overwhelmingly teaching students who come from the region,” she said, according to The Fresno Bee. “And one thing we’ve found and the research has found is that Latino students are more likely to serve in high-needs schools. It’s our goal to remove the barriers that prevent them from accessing the profession.”

Latino teachers only make up one-quarter of all teachers, despite the fact that Latino students are the majority throughout the state. Lopez said one of the issues is that Latino teachers end up leaving the profession at higher rates. “Folks are very mindful that it’s not enough to recruit into the profession,” Lopez added. “We need to prepare students, then retain them. You really do need a village.”

Through these programs at the three colleges, Latino students will find support on all levels: academic, financial, and socio-emotional. The inaugural class will begin in 2019 with 30 students. They’ll take classes at the community college before transferring to Fresno State.