Evaluating our Self-Empowerment Tool Kit: The Positive Effects of Community-Based Programs on the Mexican American Immigrant Integration Experience

Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type


First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


According to the pre-existing research, the assimilation, integration or acculturation experience of an immigrant group is dependent on the surrounding communities, cultures, and social norms of the “native population.” Much of the pre-existing research on Mexican American assimilation is in the context of sociological theories that emerged after the first waves of European immigration. It is important to acknowledge the differences between European immigration and Mexican immigration; the geographical location, the frequency of immigration, the reasons for migration, and the social challenges that each group faces over the course of many generations. Without addressing these social challenges the achievement gap continues to widen, individuals and families feel the negative effects of acculturation stress, and the unequal treatment of individuals based on a group’s identity will continue to persist. Research shows that there are various community-based programs that aim to improve the well-being of marginalized immigrant populations. However, the majority of these programs target specific gaps and disparities to decrease mental health stigma, higher cancer rates, malnourishment, or affects of acculturation stress. For the purposes of this study I will evaluate programs that aim to promote self-empowerment through community-education. I have completed observations over the course of the year and conducted 8 semi-structured interviews with local Whittier parents and community program directors to evaluate Whittier’s Fifth Dimension and its program extension the Community Engagement Parent Initiative (CEPI). I will evaluate these two programs in the context of understanding their impact on the Mexican American immigration experience and integration. After reviewing the literature there is a lack of community programs that use a holistic approach, culturally relevant activities to promote maintenance of heritage culture, or that exist for the primary purpose of increasing involvement of marginalized communities, rather looking at only one aspect of an individual’s needs such as medical, psychological, or educational. This research concludes that community programs like the CEPI and Fifth Dimension, offer a variety of empowerment skills and tools that positively affect Mexican American Immigration integration.


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