This semester’s Methods of Social Research class sought out to aid one of Iowa’s premier organizations for Latinx youth. Movimiento Al Exito is an organization focused on enhancing the lives of Latinx youth through cultural recognition, secondary education opportunities, and creating a sense of well-being in their communities. Our class was approached by Al Exito with the request to gather information to objectively view their success and areas of improvement for the program as a whole. Through hard work, dedication, and some help from a mini-grant, we were able to conduct a survey to students in Al Exito and present tangible information to help our client improve the lives of Latinx youth in Iowa.
The process was long and arduous. As we progressed through the course, we learned survey work takes research, time, dedication, and patience. We began with textbook readings to develop a perspective attuned to service learning and research strategies. The class was visited by two heads of Al Exito, executive director Dawn Oropeza and Professor Cammarota from Iowa State University. From these meetings, the class performed research about Latinx individuals in Iowa and learned of Al Exito’s goals to obtain from our survey. From there, each of us were given a task in the project such as working on a survey draft, working with SPSS (our statistical analysis program), applying for grants, and more. To create our survey, we conceptualized and operationalized many questions, both in written and survey form, in an effort to obtain relevant information. Many of our questions centered around adult support, acculturative stress, future goals, prejudice, and cultural awareness. After conducting a pilot survey with a select group of Al Exito youth, we traveled across Iowa to distribute the survey. Schools in Des Moines, Marshalltown, Clarion, Hampton, and Ottumwa were all administered our survey. Upon its completion the class analyzed data collected from 128 Latinx youth throughout Iowa and found many interesting statistics to help Al Exito in the future.
We learned many important lessons throughout this project as a class. However, three stick out to us more so than others. We all learned the value of service learning. The first how actually going into the world to fix a problem hands on allows us to create a difference and learn skills beyond a textbook. We were able to practice civic responsibility while reflecting on an unforgettable experience. The second lesson we learned is the value of survey work in the real world. Problems plague the world we live in and, unless analyzed extensively, rarely sort themselves out. The work we performed exemplified the power of information and its ability to change the world for the better. The third lesson we learned was our power in the real world. When visiting schools and administering surveys to youth, we all realized how (even if we don’t feel like it) we are adults and the youth looked up to us. It helped us to realize our place in the world and emphasized our ability to make positive and meaningful change.
We, the members of Methods of Social Research, would like to thank Drake University Community Engaged Learning for the grant to help us on our trips, materials, and supplies. Without your help, the positive experience gained by each individual member of the group could’ve turned out differently. Thank you!
Written by: Joshua Yeager