Hispanics, who represent about 60 percent of New Mexico's student population, have one of the highest high school dropout rates.

"The future of our state depends in large part on what happens with our young students," Diane Torres-Velasquez, the director of the Latino Education Task Force, told Efe.

The problem could be bigger in the future, given estimates that by 2020 the number of Hispanic students in New Mexico public schools will increase by 27 percent.

"This affects not only their education, but their finances and their social development as human beings, and that is what concerns us," said the chief of the task force, which is made up of academicians and activists.

One of the main obstacles facing Hispanic students in the public schools is a lack of the support they need to be able to fulfill their goals and dreams.

"This means that, although they may have an idea of what they want to do in their lives, it could be that they are not finding the support they need in school, the guidance they require to take classes that they need to get to their objective," Torres-Velasquez said.

Another problem is lack of self-esteem.

"A study found that in other states scholastically successful Hispanic students have a tendency to hide their cultural identity, something that we would like to analyze in New Mexico," said Torres-Velasquez.

"What message is being sent to our students if they believe that the only way they can be successful is by hiding what they truly are?" the educator asked.

Just 59 percent of Hispanic students in New Mexico's public schools will finish high school in four years.

The task force is currently working with state lawmakers and other organizations to draft a state law supporting cultural worth and proposing the creation of classes in the public schools that focus on Hispanic culture, Torres-Velasquez said. EFE