American Sociological Association

Sociology in Action: Darcie Vandegrift

Darcie Vandegrift, Drake University, worked with Latinos Al Éxito, based in Des Moines, IA, to survey Latino youth. ASA asked Vandegrift about her work:

What is the mission of Latinos Al Éxito? Al Éxito (AÉ) is the only statewide organization whose mission is to build the leadership potential of Latino/a youth through college preparation, career development, civic engagement, family support, and the celebration of culture. Al Éxito partners with school districts across the state to hold after-hours programs in schools. They do weekly asset-based, culturally-relevant programs, facilitated by Spanish speaking teachers in a safe environment. AÉ motivates, inspires, and prepares over 400 Latino students statewide each year to succeed in school, transition for a successful high school experience, and create a clear path for higher education.

Can you describe the project? From July 2017 to January 2018, with my methods of social research, I have created and piloted a survey which was completed by almost 200 youth from a half dozen cities and towns across Iowa. The class led a workshop to pilot the survey in which a group of middle and high school Latinx youth came to campus. On campus, youth took the survey and qualitative letter-writing project and provided feedback. We then discussed how sociologists work on surveys and about the use of qualitative and quantitative methods. Our team administered the survey in October and presented initial results to Al Éxito youth, board members, and staff in December. The data will appear in a final report to create knowledge for Al Éxito and the state of Iowa about Latino youth and their assessment of acculturation and immigration-related stress, discrimination, mentorship, civic engagement, entrepreneurship, and career/academic planning. I also hope to encourage a young generation of Iowans to pursue sociology as an academic discipline in college and beyond.

What sociological knowledge and/or skills did you use?

  • Research design for mixed methods projects
  • Assessment instruments that consider age and ethnic hierarchies.
  • Development of valid survey instruments from a literature review and previous research.
  • Understanding of organizations and intergroup relations to lead research team and work with community organizations

How did you connect with the Latinos Al Exito? I met the executive director through community immigration advocacy work. She wanted a more robust survey to assess Al Exito's success as an afterschool program focusing on supporting youth aspirations, cultivating ethnic self-knowledge, expanding political consciousness, and increasing academic achievement.