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The nonprofit is dedicated to providing Latino college students with the proper resources. Photo:latinoucollege.org
The nonprofit is dedicated to providing Latino college students with the proper resources. Photo:latinoucollege.org

Latino U, a nonprofit in upstate New York providing low-income students with the proper tools for college

As more young Latinos head off to college, founder Shirley Acevedo Buontempo wanted to make sure they had all the resources heading in.

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There is an increase of Latino students attending college now more than ever.

Families who came to America to give their children better opportunities than they would have in their home countries are now seeing the positive results from their moves.

But it does come with a hefty price.

According to research conducted by Education Data, nearly 67% of Hispanic and Latino student borrowers have educational debt.

Latino U College Access, a nonprofit organization in White Plains N.Y, is hoping to change those numbers by providing financial aid consultations and free standardized test preparation for students in the Westchester County.

Shirley Acevedo Buontempo, the founder and CEO of Latino U College Access, or LUCA, was determined to develop the nonprofit when she witnessed the staggering decline of Latino students attending college in 2012.

It started at her own kitchen table.

“There were so many talented students who were first generation in their families to go to college,” Buontempo told the Westchester and Fairfield County Business Journals. “They were unable to fulfill their potential, not because of their abilities, but because of the lack of resources, knowledge, and information it requires to successfully maneuver the college enrollment process.” 

LUCA seeks to draw in first-generation Latino youth to help them achieve their dreams.

The program also assists students on deciding which scholarships they are eligible for.

“It was important to me that we informed and guided them through everything from applications through financial aid, to enrollment and ultimately succeeding in college,” she said.

The organization has touched the lives of over 5,000 Latino students and provided them with access to vital resources that will prepare them for college.

According to research conducted by PNPI, The percentage of Latinos aged 25 to 29 with at least an associate’s degree increased from 15% to 31% from 2000 to 2019.

Although these numbers are impressive, there is still a lot of planning that needs to be done before attending university. 

One of LUCA’s programs help in preparation is a FAFSA Boot Camp, which offers a wide variety of help for students recently accepted to college.

The boot camps are conducted by trained volunteers and offer one-on-one workshops for students who need help filling out their FAFSA information.

The pathways that lead to successful college experiences could be overwhelming, but Latino U is offering a helping hand for first-generation college students.

Buontempo is delighted to see the increasing numbers in college acceptance letters for Latino students.

“I still cry tears of joy when I hear these acceptances that are received by students who have worked so hard their entire lives, who have sacrificed so much and whose families have sacrificed so much so that they can get to this moment,” she said.

She is also grateful that she has made lifelong friendly connections with students and their parents.

“It’s almost like the American dream is being fulfilled for them, for their families,” said Buontempo. “We know this is something that will benefit them for generations to come because once you educate a child you educate their families forever.”

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