Navigating the maze




(Adam Orr/The Post) Appalachian State University senior Belen Ledezma, left, speaks to more than 30 Hispanic families at Ashe County Middle School on Sept. 22, as part of Gear Up’s “Junto” night presentation as Winnie Ortega looks on. Ledezma graduated from Ashe County High School in 2012.


Despite the fact more Hispanics are going to college than ever before, many promising Latino high school students face an uphill battle in their quest to earn a degree.

At least one group said it doesn’t need to be that way.

That’s according to local Gear Up officials who spoke to more than 30 Hispanic families this week at Ashe County Middle School.

The Sept. 22, event – presented entirely in Spanish – was tailored to make the university admission process and scholarship search easy to understand for the Latino audience.

Here’s what you need to know:

Hispanic students are going to college in record numbers The U.S. Census Bureau said the number of Hispanic students enrolling in colleges and universities grew by 240 percent between 1996 and 2012, far outpacing enrollment rate increases among black and white students over the same time period.

But some Hispanic students still struggle getting into, and paying for school You can chalk that up to language and culture barriers that make it hard for first generation college students to navigate the competitive college admissions and financing process, according to local Gear Up officials.

Gear Up might be the fix for the problem The nationwide grant program has a mandate to help boost the number of low income students that are ready to enroll in some kind of education after high school, according to the U.S. Department of Education. It’s a way to introduce low-income students and their families to higher learning and chart a path students can follow to increase their chances of earning a college degree.

Many Hispanic students can’t turn to their parents for guidance That’s according to Jalil Cantarero, a senior anthropology major at Appalachian State University and a member of the school’s Hispanic Student Association. He said his family came to the United States from Honduras and he attended high school in Charlotte. While Cantarero said his mother set high expectations for him during high school, she could offer him little advice as he prepared for college. “It’s hard when your parents aren’t as fluent in English and you have to translate every part of the process for them,” Cantarero said. “Sometimes I felt like I was doing things alone.”

And some parents take a “hands off” approach to their child’s education That’s according to Belen Ledezma, a 2012 graduate of Ashe County High School who is currently on track to graduate from Appalachian State University in May. She said her parents viewed her education as her responsibility. “It’s not that they weren’t interested or didn’t want me to succeed,” Ledezma said. “But the I think there are some aspects of the culture that say, ‘Hey, you’re the student and getting into school is your responsibility.’ And it is but it makes things so much easier if the parents understand how they can help their kid.”

Conversing in English can be frustrating and embarrassing for non-native speakers Cantarero said Spanish speakers might also shy away from having conversations in English about complex issues like college planning or financing. He advocates engaging moms and dads of college bound students in their native language. “I think if we had a program like this in high school, where you’re speaking to someone in a language they can easily understand, parents would be so much more engaged,” Cantarero said. “I think my mom would have been able to visualize college more easily and she would have maybe pushed me more which, let’s face it, most of us needed when we were in high school.”

And financial help is available for Hispanic students Tuesday night’s presentation focused on access to tools like the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the Golden Door Scholars program which offer Latino students a viable path to pay for college. It’s a point Cantarero said should be hammered home. “The financial resources are out there,” Cantarero said. “People have just got to be willing to look for them.”

Contact Ashe County Gear Up Coordinator Karee Mackey at 336-384-3591 or visit http://ashegearup.wix.com/ashegu for more information.

(Adam Orr/The Post) Appalachian State University senior Belen Ledezma, left, speaks to more than 30 Hispanic families at Ashe County Middle School on Sept. 22, as part of Gear Up’s “Junto” night presentation as Winnie Ortega looks on. Ledezma graduated from Ashe County High School in 2012.
http://jeffersonpost.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/web1_DSCN3252.jpg(Adam Orr/The Post) Appalachian State University senior Belen Ledezma, left, speaks to more than 30 Hispanic families at Ashe County Middle School on Sept. 22, as part of Gear Up’s “Junto” night presentation as Winnie Ortega looks on. Ledezma graduated from Ashe County High School in 2012.
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