Top-performing Latinos attend program at Cabrini
Around 96 top-performing Latino students landed at Cabrini College this week to embark on an immersive college admissions program offered by the National Hispanic Institute (NHI).
High school students from across the United States, as well as Mexico, Dominican Republic and Panama, are participating in a five-day immersive program that, according NHI, “incorporates friendly competition and serious discussions about community engagement to prepare students for college as a stepping stone to taking leadership roles within the U.S. Latino community.”
“I think that this (program) is a very important piece of college preparation, because the hardest thing for Latino students when selecting a university is really having that on-campus experience,” said Angelica Martinez, Multicultural Recruiter of Partnerships at Cabrini College. “Many of our students don’t get a chance to see the campuses they are applying to prior to their applications.”
Her role during the prep sessions is to provide guidance for the students as a coach and go through a lot of the college preparation programs. “I am teaching them about how to fill out an application, how to develop an essay and also how create their resume,” Martinez said.
Martinez has been with Cabrini College since last year but has collaborated with NHI for more than 14 years through her recruitment efforts registering high school students to participate in their programs.
“One of the biggest benefits for students attending this week is that some of them don’t know how to communicate with people who are in the admissions field. I think this is a more casual but, at the same time, more professional experience for them,” she said. “As opposed to talking with someone they met at a college fair and only had a two minute conversation, admission staff are actually getting to know the students a little bit more in depth.”
At the current networking sessions attendees have the opportunity to meet staff from nine participating higher education institutions including Cabrini; Cornell University; Fordham University; New York University; Simmons College; St. Joseph’s University; the University of Pennsylvania; Villanova University, and Yale University.
Martinez also said it is important to get Latino students on campus and get their parents involved in the process because traditionally most of them really take into account the opinions of their parents when they are making a decision like what institution to select.
“Kids find a connection to staff like myself. I am fully bilingual and I am able to provide any resource for their families if they have any questions about college applications process and really help them navigate the process,” she said.
According to the recruiter, the biggest obstacle that a lot of Latino students and their families encounter is not knowing a lot of details that go into developing a college application and financing their education. “They make decision because they are unaware that there are opportunities out there for them.”
This is the second year Cabrini hosts NHI’s college admissions preparation program, part of the organization’s ongoing efforts to develop 21st Century Latino leaders in communities where they’re needed.
Established in 1979, NHI was founded by Ernesto Nieto and a colleagues who were originally part of an effort to create a community leadership structure for Latinos in Texas. Today the organization serves well over 3,000 high school students a year. And while Texas remains strong among the population annually attending the organization’s summer programs, the mix of students represent 26 U.S. states and 7 Latin American nations.
“I am a big believer in advancing academic Latino students. It Is a pleasure to volunteer at NHI and help to envision their lives bigger than they thought they could be, to set really high goals, and be bold with their aspirations in life,” said Roy Nieto, whose involvement with the organization spans 25 years.
“Access to quality information is a really big impediment for Latino students because in general they are first-generation college applicants. There is a 450-to-one student to counselor ratio in the United States,” Nieto said. “If you are a first-generation student you are being pushed into a world you don’t have a reference to.”
For Ryan Cully, an All Hallows High School student in the Bronx, New York, the best way to get a leg up is to start and to start working now. “If you wait until the end, you’ll either won’t finish it or won’t come up the way you need it to.”
The program attendee has been a member of NHI since his freshmen year and says it great to be around a group that has the same questions and the same goals. “So far I’ve had the opportunity to meet representatives from different colleges and it also gives you a very good sense of what is coming your way really soon because they are actual college admission officers here so its been good to get those connections.”
Manuel Ramirez, a 17-year-old from Dominican Republic, just graduated from high school and was chosen by his school to participate in the program. He is interested in pursuing a career in electronic engineering or computer science.
“I think is important to go to college because the main thing a person can have is knowledge; the more you learn the more valuable you are to society,” Ramirez said.
He said his membership with NHI has helped him developed his leadership skills, as well as his language skills.
Latino should focus on their skills and never feel shy if they don’t have the resources or don’t speak English. If you have a calling to take action you will find the necessary tools,” Ramirez said. “As long as you have the will you can do anything.”
“It is easy to feel disheartened being a first generation college student or being Latina and going to college and not finding people that are like you,” said Leslie Benites, a senior at Eastwood Academy High School in Houston, Texas.
The senior has set her eye pm Brown University and is interested in psychology and would like to later move into law.
So why does she think it is important to go to college?
“My parents didn’t and neither their parents. I think that is so easy to lose everything that you have but your education. This is one of the most prominent things that you can have and more so is also a tool,” Benavides said.
For more information on the different programs and membership opportunities visit NHI.