ESCALERA: Taking Steps to Success

Latinx youth are one of the fastest-growing populations in the United States, accounting for one-in-four public-school students, and one-in-five college students. In the last two decades, Latinx students have made impressive strides, including graduating high school and enrolling in college at record rates. Despite these gains, Latinx college completion rates still lag.

Only one-in-five Latinx students graduate from a two-year college, and only one-in-two graduate from a four-year institution. Closing the educational attainment gap among Latinx students will be critical as the workforce evolves and the labor market becomes increasingly competitive.

Escalera: Taking Steps to Success is one way in which UnidosUS, in partnership with its Affiliate Network, is helping to close the educational attainment gap and ensure Latinx youth are college and career ready.

Bridging the higher education gap

UnidosUS’s Escalera: Taking Steps to Success college and career readiness program for 11th and 12th grade students supports historically underserved students, including first-generation, low-income, and English Learners (EL).

Escalera seeks to bridge the Latinx higher education gap by decreasing barriers to college access, increasing career planning resources, and empowering Latinx youth to make informed decisions about their futures.

Since its founding in 2001, Escalera has been implemented at over 35 Affiliate sites across nearly 20 states, and expanded its programming to include STEM (Escalera STEM), female empowerment (Mujeres en Escalera), and Early Escalera: Pasos Adelante (geared towards 9th and 10th grade students). Since 2015, Escalera has reached over 3,300 high school students thanks to the generous support of UPS, Shell, Coca Cola and PepsiCo.

Empowering Latinx youth in college and career

Escalera provides opportunities for youth to develop foundational skills and STEM awareness while exploring education and career opportunities. Youth will develop as leaders with a lens on the student as an individual, as a member of their community, and as an inhabitant of the country.

Escalera is delivered through culturally informed, curriculum-based learning sessions combined with experiential learning activities including internships and shadowing opportunities. Individual case management provides each student with personal advising time with college and career advisors throughout their post-secondary planning process.

Escalera works to increase Latinx college enrollment and career-readiness by providing:

  • Opportunities to develop personally and network with other Escalera youth through annual events such as the UnidosUS Escalera STEM Youth Summit, the UnidosUS Escalera Youth Leadership Summit, and the UnidosUS Escalera Pasos Hacia el Exito Shadowing Days, in which students are encouraged to be civically engaged, empowered to exercise their voice to elevate pressing issues, and feel connected to the larger Latinx community.
  • Relevant information that increases access to college such as knowledge of the college-entrance exams, including the ACT and SAT, and familiarity with sources of financial aid (scholarships, grants, loans, etc.).
  • Activities that strengthen their career readiness such as exploring and planning for future goals, developing their professional skills, building a resume, and seeking professional recommendations.

Learn more about Escalera: Taking Steps to Success


Eligibility and how to apply

Grant requests to implement the Escalera program are open to UnidosUS Affiliates. Affiliate organizations interested in applying must be in good standing and currently serve or plan to serve Latinx youth.

The UnidosUS Escalera Team will begin seeking Letters of Intent from eligible Affiliates interested in implementing the program in February 2021.

Current application opportunities: CLOSED

For more information about Escalera, contact UnidosUS Education Program Manager Amparo K. Díaz at

Amparo K. Díaz

Application Status: CLOSED

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