Campus Welcomes Latino Students

Approximately 100 Latino high school and college students from across Kentucky converged on the campuses of Eastern Kentucky University and Bluegrass Community and Technical College recently to learn more about the college experience and gain leadership skills.

The 10th annual Latino Leadership and College Experience camp is designed to provide Latino and immigrant youth with an intensive college preparation and leadership development experience. The students enjoyed a creative mix of college-like courses, leadership development workshops, team-building activities, cultural experiences, recreational activities and social justice awareness events.

They also participated in workshops on college planning, financial aid and scholarships and attended a college fair staffed by representatives of colleges and universities throughout Kentucky and some adjacent states.

The campers spent July 26-30 at BCTC and July 31-Aug. 2 on the EKU campus. The students had the opportunity to spend the week with community mentor and activist Robert “Bobby" Verdugo, leader of the 1968 high school walkouts of East Los Angeles, a historically significant student-led effort to bring education reform to the disenfranchised schools on the Eastside.

At EKU on July 31, the campers made their own t-shirts, learned about computer programming, played games to illustrate probability concepts, explored the universe at Hummel Planetarium, built and played games with a simple catapult from Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketchbook, learned Japanese calligraphy and the major movements for the classical Japanese musical drama Noh Theater, got a hands-on overview of the emergency management profession, learned about computer programming, took an interpretive hike through Taylor Fork Ecological Area, wrote poems and lyric essays, played video games in which they utilized skills to complete goals and tasks, and learned the basics of French.

The following day, campers met at EKU’s Challenge Course and enjoyed a dinner and talent show. A graduation ceremony on Aug. 2 concluded the EKU portion of the camp.

The students were assisted throughout the week by facilitators that included faculty, staff and previous participants of the camp who went on to college.

Also on July 31, EKU President Michael Benson and his BCTC counterpart, Augusta Julian, spoke at an invitation-only roundtable discussion and Latino student success luncheon in Lexington with the White House Initiative for the Educational Excellence of Hispanics.

Kentucky has one of the fastest-growing Latino populations in the U.S., with a 140 percent increase over the past decade. However, only 17 percent of Latinos ages 25-64 have an associate degree or higher. According to the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, 61 percent of Latino students graduating from Kentucky’s high schools are not prepared for college.

In 2013, EKU hired Liliana Gomez de Coss (859-622-7956) as the University’s first full-time bilingual Latino recruitment specialist. It recently opened a Latino Student Success Center to provide current and incoming students the necessary services they need to successfully integrate into college life. In conjunction with the Student Outreach and Transition Office, the center provides scholarship information, interpreting services, and a strong sense of inclusiveness for all students. EKU’s Latino Student Association and the Spanish faculty in the Dept. of Languages, Cultures, and Humanities collaborate to provide education about the diversity of Latino culture, organize and promote Latino cultural events, actively engages in advocacy and activism that promotes access to higher education for Latino students, and seeks to create a community where incoming Latino students find support and encouragement on campus. For more information, visit the Latino Success Center or contact the faculty advisor, Dr. Socorro Zaragoza.

On Oct. 30, EKU will host the Latino Multicultural College Fair for the second time. More than 400 students from around the Commonwealth are expected to attend.

In addition, a $37,500 grant from the Kentucky Latino Education Alliance (K’LEA) is helping EKU continue building cradle-to-career initiatives that positively impact Latino student success. The grant has enabled Eastern, Centre College and Centro Latino to form the Latino Educational Advancement Program (LEAP), which provides outreach to assist students of all ages and their families with all aspects of their education, including basic tutoring, summer camps and college prep programs.