Pivotal Moments

Pivotal Moments How Educators Can Put All Students on the Path to College

Roberta Espinoza, foreword by Kathleen Cushman
paper, 264 Pages
Pub. Date: December 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-119-2
Price: $33.00

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For many students, making their way to higher education requires more than hard work and determination. Low-income minority students who overcome obstacles to achieve academic success have usually encountered at least one college-educated adult in their schooling who took the initiative to reach out to them and provide concrete academic guidance.


This is a timely and important book. Pivotal Moments is filled with practical ideas on how to expand access to college for students who have traditionally been underserved and underrepresented. Drawing on an extensive body of research, Espinoza presents an analysis of what it takes to get more students ‘college ready’ which educators, counselors, and anyone who works with youth will find insightful and illuminating. — Pedro A. Noguera, Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education, New York University

One of the most significant public policy challenges of the twenty-first century is to figure out how to increase college going for low-income youth. Roberta Espinoza provides clues to how individuals inside or outside the classroom can empower students and put them on the path to college. This is a well-researched book with an important message: yes, individuals can make a difference! — William G. Tierney, university professor, Wilbur Kieffer Professor of Higher Education, and director, Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis, University of Southern California

“Roberta Espinoza’s compelling and insightful book helps explain the transformative impact that a college-educated adult—such as a teacher or counselor—can have on the life of an educationally disadvantaged student. The Pivotal Moment of academic intervention in the educator/student relationship has the potential to alter the life trajectory of these students—and our collective well-being.” — Jamie P. Merisotis, president, Lumina Foundation

It is refreshing to read Espinoza’s eloquent accounts of the moments when educational possibilities are created for underserved students. Most important, these are intentional—not chance—encounters, a fact that points toward a systemic, institutional approach to supporting educational equity. — Hugh Mehan, professor emeritus of sociology, University of California, San Diego, and founding director, Center for Research on Educational Equity, Access, and Teaching Excellence (CREATE)

I think most educators want to 'make a difference' in their students’ lives, and this book... will help all of us, teachers, counselors, government and private agencies – learn how to become a Pivotal Moment Educator. — Barbara Simmons, National Association for College Admission Counseling

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About the Author

Roberta Espinoza is assistant professor of sociology at California State University, Fullerton. She received her BA from Pomona College and her PhD in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. She has worked at various research institutes, including the University of California, Berkeley Center for Working Families; the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing; and the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute. She has written articles on minority and working-class students’ access to college, women of color in doctoral education, and Latino undocumented students. Her research on Latina doctoral students was featured in the Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine. She speaks annually for academic outreach programs and teaches in college programs that aim to increase the number of underrepresented students in higher education. She also consults with schools and districts concerning the pathways to college for working-class minority students.

The Power of Pivotal Moments by Roberta Espinoza

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