Educational gains among Latino youth pose an opportunity or a threat to the growing number of Latino Pentecostal churches in the U.S.

Latinos are graduating from high school and enrolling in college at record-high rates. At the same time, Latino Pentecostalism is on the rise. According to a Pew Research report released this year, two thirds of Hispanic Protestants self-identify as Pentecostal.

So when it comes to Latino evangelical churches and education, Pentecostals stand to benefit the most from improvements in the educational success of its Latino youth congregants—that is, if they can keep them.

Toxic rhetoric against higher education attainment preached from the pulpit and reinforced by members in Pentecostal churches can discourage aspiring young Latinos, especially young Latinas, from pursuing higher education altogether or from remaining in the churches that helped rear them.

As a Latina growing up in a large Latino Pentecostal church, I experienced firsthand a pushback on my educational attainment. Many leaders and members couldn't understand why I stepped back from church leadership positions during my undergraduate years to focus on my "secular studies." Fellow members seemed more concerned with praying for my future husband than for exams I had coming up.

In fact, not long after I announced I was leaving my home church to pursue a master’s degree, a well-intentioned but misinformed hermano approached me to say, “Estoy orando para que te realices...que Dios te de un esposo.” Loosely translated: I am praying for you to become self-actualized…through marriage.

Although I appreciated his well-meaning prayers for a future spouse, I would have also appreciated ...

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