Latino Alliance Grant Fuels Students' Dreams

Published on July 27, 2015

A $37,500 grant from the Kentucky Latino Education Alliance (K'LEA) is helping Eastern Kentucky University continue building cradle-to-career initiatives that positively impact Latino student success.

The grant enabled EKU, Centre College and Centro Latino to form the Latino Educational Advancement Program (LEAP), which provides outreach to assist students of all ages and their families with all aspects of their education, including basic tutoring, summer camps, and college prep programs.           

EKU also arranges college visits for students and their parents, and collaborates with BCTC to host multicultural college fairs and community events that promote college attainment to the broader community. To better facilitate these activities with the Latino community and area schools, faculty, staff and volunteers from the partners share ESL, cultural competency and admissions/financial aid training.

“As a result of these efforts, more Latinos in Kentucky will be empowered to succeed in school and GED programs and to apply to, persist in, and graduate from college,” said Dr. Abbey Poffenberger, chair of EKU’s Department of Languages, Cultures and Humanities and co-director for the KLEA grant.

The grant has enabled EKU to plan more outreach visits throughout its service region, bring more prospective Latino students and their families to campus, and provide meals, transportation and programming.

For the third consecutive year, Eastern and Bluegrass Community and Technical College are co-hosting a Latino Leadership College Experience July 26-Aug. 2. Ninety attended the 2014 event, which was split between the two institutions and funded by the grant. Volunteers include students from EKU’s Latino Student Association.

Eastern will host the Latino Multicultural College Fair for the second time on Oct. 30, More than 400 students from around the state are expected to attend.

EKU matched the K'LEA grant with institutional funds from the offices of the provost and president. “The administration has been very supportive, not just with their financial support but also with their energy,” Poffenberger said. “President (Michael) Benson’s vision was to see a Latino Success Center.” The president was among those on hand for a ribbon-cutting for the LSC in the Whitlock Building this spring.

“The Center gives us visibility and a space where students can meet and share the diversity of the Latino culture,” said Dr. Socorro Zaragoza, Latino Student Association faculty adviser and Spanish professor in the Department of Languages, Cultures and Humanities. “The students are very proud of it. It shows that we want them to be successful here.”

“We want our current students to feel that they’re welcome,” said Liliana Gomez de Coss, who was hired as the University’s first full-time Latino recruitment specialist in 2013. “We want them to embrace the EKU culture and be a part of it.”

Kentucky has one of the fastest-growing Latino populations in the U.S., with a 140 percent increase over the past decade.