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SUNY Fredonia Awarded Wal-Mart Grant to Spur Latino Success in College

Latino grant
Brad Balentine (center), manager of the Dunkirk Wal-Mart Supercenter, reviews LEAP2Success/Éxito literature with SUNY Fredonia’s Vice President for Student Affairs David Herman and Vice President for Academic Affairs Virginia Horvath.

A $50,000 Wal-Mart Foundation SEMILLAS grant has been awarded to SUNY Fredonia from Excelencia in Education, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising the success rate of Latino students in higher education.

One of just 20 colleges and universities across the nation awarded funding under Excelencia in Education’s "Growing What Works" initiative, SUNY Fredonia will use its grant to launch LEAP2Success/Éxito, an innovative three-stage program designed to demystify the pathway to a college education for Latino students. Twelve of the 20 grants went to public universities.

Created by a team of Fredonia administrators, staff and off-campus partners, LEAP2Success/Éxito will expand efforts to reach low-income, first generation Latino students and their families through a partnership with the Dunkirk School District and Dunkirk’s 21st Century grant program. Existing pre-collegiate programs, admissions outreach and matriculated student programs will be enhanced to achieve program objectives. In addition to working with younger students, the program will encourage Latino students applying to college and their families, while enhancing support for Latino students already enrolled at Fredonia.

“We are eager to reach out to this population, which does have distinct needs, and we recognize that Latino student success in college means planting the idea of college going early, providing information to families as well as to the students about what they need to do to be successful in getting into college, and supporting them once they’re there,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs  Virginia Horvath.

Three stages, or leaps, comprise the LEAP2Success/Éxito formula. The first, developing a concept of going to college, is designed to help students transition from the thought that “no one in my family goes to college” to “that could be me, so what do I have to do academically so that college might be possible?” This shift can be achieved through interactions between middle-school students and their families, and the university, its students and faculty. An introduction of the processes leading to college enrollment is an integral part of the strategy.

The second leap calls for acting on the concept of going to college by applying targeted outreach to prospective students and their families to reduce barriers by using bilingual pre-admission materials and events, such as an annual open house where translation is provided.

The third leap enables Latino students to make social, intellectual, spiritual and emotional associations that are necessary for both short- and long-term success during the first year of study — a critical time for students of all backgrounds. A graduate assistant serving as a Latino outreach coordinator based in SUNY Fredonia’s Office of Multicultural Affairs will direct various on- and off-campus activities that support the program’s goal.

There were 153 Latino students, representing 3 percent of SUNY Fredonia’s undergraduate population of 5,175, enrolled in the 2008 fall semester. Approximately 25 to 30 percent of Dunkirk students are of Latino descent. The program was developed with input from 21st Century program administrators at Dunkirk schools and Rev. Carlos Llera of the Assemblies of God of Western New York, representing the local Latino church community, along with support from the local Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Wal-Mart Dunkirk Manager Brad Balentine said college literature that explores higher education programs and opportunities will be placed in his store’s employee break room. A display, staffed by SUNY Fredonia representatives, is also planned.

“We’re excited to be able to work with the university to help our community,” said Balentine, now in his ninth year as manager.

Excelencia in Education is the most recent example of the local Wal-Mart’s association with SUNY Fredonia. The store assisted students with a sustainability project for a SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise) competition and also supported the Fred Ruterbusch Memorial 5K Run.

“The grant application evaluators were impressed that our local Wal-Mart manager was involved with the proposal from the outset,” Vice President for Student Affairs David Herman said.

As members of the grant development team, Drs. Horvath and Herman gained insight into successful Growing What Works programs established at other institutions during an Excelencia in Education honors gathering in Washington, D.C. They also made key contacts with public and private foundations that support various educational initiatives.

The acronym SEMILLAS, which is Spanish for seeds, stands for Seeds for Educational Models that Impact and Leverage Latino Academic Success.

posted @ Thursday, January 21, 2010 11:13 AM by Christine Davis Mantai

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