Prepárate 2024

No Sabo Kids: Understanding the Second-Generation Student

At the 2024 Preparate™ Conference, during a session called “No Sabo Kids,” a group of educators, students, and professionals submitted their answers to a question: “What do you think the term no sabo means?”
Attendees answered honestly and vulnerably.


“Language shaming.”

“Don’t know Spanish.”

“Broken Spanish.”

“It means I’m not alone.”

“Criticism from your own people that you’re not Hispanic enough.”  

According to Language Magazine, the term no sabo is a grammatically incorrect translation of “I don’t know.”  It’s a derogatory term that makes fun of or insults Hispanics and Latinos who don’t speak “proper” Spanish.

The term has lately acquired a new meaning. Second-  and third-generation students are turning the term into an online cultural phenomenon that has generated millions of memes and videos.

For the past 25 years, Lissette Chavez has been a special educator and learning behavior specialist in Chicago Public Schools. Chavez recognizes the importance of understanding the identities of second-generation students.  

“This subject is such a relevant topic for educators,” Chavez claims. “Right now, we’re facing many second- and third-generation students who are coined no sabo. What we want to explore is the stories and how this is impacting their learning and identities.” 

Chavez pointed out that the data from the United States Census Bureau reveal that the Latino population has continued to grow in the West and South. Many second- and third-generation students, their parents, and their grandparents have roots in this country. Many students have had to assimilate. This has led them to create their own identity.  

Yahaira “Yari” Diaz is a bilingual school psychologist in Chicago. While working closely with the Hispanic and Latino population, Diaz has observed inconsistencies within communities of color, specifically with how first- and second-generation Hispanic and Latino student populations are handling mental health issues.

Diaz summarized a recent meta-analysis that compiled all research articles targeting Latino populations. The research showed that first-generation students or immigrant students are internalizing issues. They report feeling depressed, sad, or anxious. 

”We’re seeing within communities that we’re talking about mental health more,” Diaz shared.  “Second-generation U.S students are more likely to receive disciplinary action in a school setting. In addition, they’re less likely to report that they may be feeling unsafe.”

She went on to say that second-generation students are more aware of things that are working against them, which leads to a cultural mistrust of systems. According to Latinos for Education, Latino students are less likely to be suspended when they’re taught by Latino teachers.

Eliades Hernandez, a counselor at Maine West High School, recognizes that Latino representation is vital for second and third generations attending school.

We need adults who look like our students, sound like our students, and we need to push for representation within administrative spaces for our students.

Eliades Hernandez, Counselor, Maine West High School

“No sabo kids are having the opportunity to create their own identity,” Hernandez stated.

“A majority of second- and third-generation generation students may not be able to speak Spanish, but they still acknowledge their roots and community,” he explained. “They don’t consider the term no sabo insulting. They see it as validating that they’re not the same. This attitude differs from that of previous generations.”

“Many students are trying to figure it out,” Chavez added. “They’re trying to have an identity. Many don’t reject their roots. They don’t reject who they are. We must be mindful not to be put every Latino in the same box.”