A one-stop resource fair for Latinos at CCP
Roxanna Encarnación, a Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) came to the U.S. in her early teens and went straight to CCP to obtain her education.
An alumni of the 2010 class, Encarnación now works as a loan servicer at Finanta in Philadelphia.
“It was really eye opening,” Encarnación said of her time attending classes for the first time at the Philadelphia college. “I had to make a foundation here, learn a new language and learn a new culture. It’s the most affordable school and you take your education anywhere that you want, it’s not like you can get stuck.”
Encarnación is part of a larger population of students who once believed the thought of attending college to be out of reach. There are many hurdles and challenges for those who might not have the funds for tuition or have come to the U.S. undocumented.
According to the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s Roadmap for Growth report, the city’s population in 2013 was 44 percent African-American; 13 percent Hispanic or Latino; 6 percent Asian and 37 percent Non-Hispanic White. Combine these shifts with research from the Pew Research Center, which found that Latinos currently constitute the largest minority group enrolled on U. S. college campuses, and the importance of this demographic emerges.
For a second year, CCP will hosting Latino College Day on Saturday from 12 p.m. to 3.pm. It’s a new, one-stop resource fair designed to help young Philadelphians take their places as students, entrepreneurs, and leaders in the community.
“Most people come here when they’re are of high school age,” Encarnación said. “They work at a factory, they work with their parents because they think that’s all there is. You don’t have the opportunity to go to college because you don’t know the language, you don’t have the money and you don’t know the culture. So it is very limited, so I think that’s why these events are very important. It can get to a variety of families.”
When he traveled over to the U.S. from Colombia at a young age, Andres Vivas Lopez always knew that he would attend college. Even though his parents, at the time, did not make him worry about the option to attend too much.
Vivas Lopez, a CCP alumni of the 2013 class attended Julia R. Masterman High School before attending CCP. It was there that a lot of peers, he said, had aspirations of attending Ivy League colleges.
“My school was very college driven and prepared us for it. I was pretty sure I was going to college, I had the scores and grades for it but it wasn't until I saw the dollar value for those [financial aid] packages that it became real,” Vivas Lopez said. “And then I thought of how was I going to afford this because it doesn’t really click until you’re holding that letter and it says that you have to borrow x amount.”
Like Encarnación, Vivas Lopez was concerned not only with the burden of tuition costs that cripple so many graduates, but also with building a foundation for his family in the U.S.
“I just couldn't pull through with that and allow it to happen to myself or my family,” Vivas Lopez said. “So [CCP] this was the only alternative that I had.”
Vivas Lopez does not regret his choice in attending CCP, he was able to gain a lot of experience before finding himself at his current college, Drexel University. It was also affordable for him and he did not find himself in too tight of a financial situation.
CCP, he said, provides bridges that disconnect between whether or not it's actually possible to attend college. And events like Latino Day will help reinforce this thoughts for other students who may think it impossible for them to attend.
Last year when the college first hosted Latino Day, the event drew little attention from their targeted audience.
“We probably had 25 to 30 people there,” said Diane Kae, manager of student outreach and recruitment at CCP. “Maybe a few more, but the people who were there found it very valuable and and we knew that we wanted to do it again. We’re hoping to make this an annual event but we decided the best way to go about it for planning was to engage multiple community partners to hear their voice.”
There will be a variety of presentations on college readiness and different opportunities that CCP offers to Latinos. Aspira, Congreso and others will on hand and a part of the event as well as students like Vivas Lopez discussing their experiences at CCP.
“We’re also going to have representation from staff and faculty who are Latino there to talk and answer questions,” Kae said. “To just sort of say hello to the audience and to help them understand that we are a very welcoming college. We also are having a computer room that is available to us and so one of the bilingual staff will be there to answer financial aid questions, if anyone wants to file for FAFSA while they are they will be able to get help with that.”