The ability to be able to afford college can be a daunting experience for those who are college bound.
Back in 2008, this was a question hanging over Tania Hurtado’s head. The Rhode Island resident, 23, who came to the U.S. from Bolivia with her mother and older brother in 2000, had a great GPA working for her, but funds were tight.
Hurtado says she saw her mother struggle to make ends meet, but that it was her dream for her daughter to go to college, so Hurtado kept her eyes on the prize.
Now a graduate of Roger Williams University in Providence, RI – a small private, liberal arts university, Hurtado is the new Community Executive at the American Cancer Society branch in Providence. As the only Spanish-speaking person in her office, Hurtado is in charge of connecting with Latino cancer patients at seven different hospitals and community centers. She does one-on-one consults, educates patients, and plans workshops.
“Right now we’re really focused on prevention and detection, so we’re doing a lot of outreach in minority and underserved communities,” says Hurtado.
Success stories like hers are exactly what minority scholarship programs, like the Intercultural Leadership Ambassador’s program at Roger Williams, want to help build.
Don Mays, the school’s Associate Director of Admissions and Coordinator of Multicultural Recruitment, says it’s not just an issue of thinking college isn’t affordable but that what students don’t realize is that there are millions of dollars available to help them make it happen.
This is especially true at many of the smaller colleges, he says.
Hurtado’s story is a great example of this. Her senior year of high school she applied to numerous schools and shortly after applying to Roger Williams she was approached with the offer to join their ILA program.
The program, which began in 2007 and graduated its first class in 2011, offers full-tuition scholarships, as well as a “tightly-woven safety net” support system that helps the students excel and become leaders.
“My biggest message to students, most often, is to identify a school they love and to find a place where they’re not only going to survive but where they’re going to shine,” he says.
The rest is a matter of doing a little research.
National organizations like the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities can be a great resource, as well: http://www.hacu.net/hacu/Scholarship_Resource_List.asp
However, to be eligible for the ILA program, interested students must be first-generation college-bound students from an under-resourced community; English must be a second language spoken at home and the student must have also had to overcome a life challenge in pursuit of education. And once accepted, the student is responsible for up keeping a 3.0 GPA throughout the four years.
“The program really works,” says Mays, citing a 90 percent graduation rate, when the graduation rates for students of color barely break the 50 percentage point.
“And what’s best is the students then go on to have powerful impacts in their communities,” he says.
By Being Latino Contributor Vanessa A. Alvarez