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Amy Aparicio Clark: Supporting Latino Adolescents

Amy Aparicio Clark

Growing up in Lima, Peru, Amy Aparicio Clark would accompany her physician father to visit underserved patients living in shanty towns on the outskirts of the city or in rural areas. His sense of obligation to serve people who may never see a doctor was a formative experience for her. In fifth grade she moved with her family to Connecticut where she learned English. She began her career as a middle school Spanish teacher in Massachusetts; now she’s involved in education research and development in the Health and Human Development Division at EDC.

What does your work at EDC involve?

It involves helping Latino adolescents be more successful in school and in life. Before joining HHD, I worked on a project called PALMS: Postsecondary Access for Latino Middle-Grades Students, which helps principals and teachers establish an environment that supports Latino students’ pursuit of higher education.

Now Latino parents are my focus—they are critical to the children’s success. I helped develop a bilingual version of the parent education/intervention program Saving Sex for Later. I’m also directing a new project called Salud y Exito—Health and Success—which will assist parents as they guide their children to make positive, healthy choices for their futures.

How do these resources help parents of adolescents?

Adolescence is a tough transition, both for the kids and for the parents. We want parents to have positive interactions with their children, because if adolescents don’t make healthy choices early, they can be in for a rough time at school and later on. So we are developing materials for Latino parents designed to model how to clearly communicate their rules and values, and how to be assertive about monitoring their children’s activities.

Salud y Exito builds on Saving Sex for Later, which is a set of audio CDs that uses dramatic storytelling to model how parents can engage with their children on a topic that’s hard to discuss. It was originally developed for inner city English speaking youth. And I’m excited about the cultural and language adaptation for a Spanish-speaking audience. We’re now in the process of evaluating the impact on Latino families.

How can parents have a positive influence on their children?

Parents have a lot more influence over their pre-teen children than they may give themselves credit for. The peer pressure children face can be counterbalanced by clear messages from their parents, making kids less likely to have sex, get pregnant, and experiment with alcohol or drugs—risks that can impact school attendance and performance, and success later in life.

What is gratifying about your work?

Arriving in the United States as a fifth grader, I felt compelled to assimilate as much as possible. It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized I was losing something important in the process. So I reclaimed my bilingualism and got a job teaching Spanish to sixth graders.

Now at EDC, I love that I can use my language skills to help middle school students get more support from their teachers and their parents. It’s a small part to play, but it’s progress toward making inequities in our society a little less glaring.

Saving Sex for Later is funded by the Annie E. Casy Foundation. Salud y Exito is funded by the National Institutes of Health. For more information contact Amy Aparicio Clark at aclark@edc.org