Emmanuel Bravo poses with the Bruin statue at UCLA. / Photo courtesy of Emmanuel Bravo

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When Emmanuel Bravo graduated from Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez Learning Center in Boyle Heights last year, he had a clear goal of attending the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), one of the most prestigious colleges in the country.

Bravo, a former Boyle Heights Beat youth reporter, also knew he was the first in his family to go to college.

“It’s a very gratifying feeling,” said the 18-year-old son of Mexican immigrants, who is about to complete his first year at UCLA. “You become an example to follow. I take it as a blessing.”

Bravo is part of a generation of young Hispanics who have marked an achievement for Latinos in the United States.

Like him, seven in 10 Hispanic students who graduated from high school in 2012 continued onto college. This is according to an analysis of the latest Census data released last week by the Pew Research Hispanic Center.

The analysis indicates that 69% of Latino high school graduates in 2012 were able to enter a university or college. For the first time, this rate exceeds the white population at 67%.

At the same time, the analysis found that the dropout rate among Latinos fell by half, from 28% in 2000 to 14% in 2011.

But Hispanic students are still at a disadvantaged on an important item: of those who reached a higher education, only 56% went to a four-year university as UCLA. For white students the rate is 72%.

According to Pew, a factor that has contributed to the positive trend among Hispanics is that 88% of Latino adults-over 16 years- admit that a college education is necessary to succeed in life.

The support of his parents, Bravo said, has been key to his success.

“It’s been a struggle,” he said. “It was not easy to get used to the study habits in college.”

“You have to go as far as possible,” said the Bravo, who aspires to obtain a degree in Political Science. “This is just the beginning, the masters degree is the next step.”

This story was originally published in La Opinión

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