In high school, Candace de León-Zepeda was working in her family's tire shop. Patricia Portales was preparing to become a secretary. Margaret Cantú-Sánchez was college-bound but already cognizant of the lack of Latino representation in books.
Against many odds, all three will get what one of their mentors described as “a little papelito,” a precious piece of paper, that will open doors to the academy.
Today they'll receive their doctoral degrees in English from the University of Texas at San Antonio.
They're anomalies. While the nation has almost 50 million Latinos, according to 2011 census data, it can boast only 174,000 who have Ph.D.s, less than 1 percent of all Latinos of all races.
The number remains low even though Latinos account for 14 percent of those in higher education, said Deborah Santiago of the Washington-based Excelencia in Education, whose mission is to accelerate higher-education attainment among Latinos.
“It's clear Latinos are primed and ready to go,” she said. READ MORE