Wright State hosts inaugural Latino Center Summer Program for high school students

Local high school students learned about opportunities at Wright State and were introduced to college success strategies at the inaugural Latino Center Summer Program.

Seventeen area high school students participated in Wright State University’s inaugural Latino Center Summer Program, which offered them the opportunity to learn college success strategies, get tips on career readiness and receive hands-on experiences with the university’s six colleges.

The program was created by Catherine Hernandez Hogan, assistant director of the Wright State Latino Center, at the request of Laura Bucio, the teaching English as a second language coordinator at Tecumseh Local Schools.

During the summer, Bucio teaches a migrant student program for grades nine to 12. Many of the students in the program take advanced and honors classes and needed a more challenging and meaningful summer program that might spark an interest in continuing their education beyond high school.

When Bucio pitched the idea of creating a six-day program that would expose her students to college life, Hernandez Hogan jumped at the chance.

“The mission of the Latino Center is to recruit, retain, empower, graduate and advance Latino students,” said Hernandez Hogan. “Education is the greatest weapon against poverty, and so, if we show them that they can do it, that is college, it will not only transform their lives but the lives of their families.”

The Latino Center Summer Program, which is designed to take a holistic approach, not only exposed students to the various opportunities at Wright State but also allowed them to meet with Career Services, provided an emotional wellness segment, and shared segments of Latino Si Se Puede, a first-year course for Latino and Hispanic students. The course explores success strategies needed for a positive first-year experience through the lens of Latino culture.

Students who completed all six days of the summer program received a special certificate and one college credit.

One of the main takeaways that the high school students seemed to derive from the program was a new sense of focus. Many had not given much thought to college or what career path they might choose beyond high school.

Rafael Mendoza, an 11th-grade student at Tecumseh High School, received a certificate for participating in the inaugural Latino Center Summer Program from Matthew Chaney, Ed.D, vice president of Wright State’s Division of Inclusive Excellence, and Catherine Hernandez Hogan, assistant director of the Wright State Latino Center.

Sofia Alvarado, an Urbana City Schools student who will enter the 10th grade in the fall, said she learned about the program from a relative. She said she was a little nervous at first because she only spoke a little Spanish and was not surrounded by a diverse group in her school. However, after completing the program, she said she was glad she participated.

“This program made me think a lot more about college,” said Alvarado. “Before doing this program, I did not know what I wanted to do at all. After meeting with everyone and seeing all there was to offer, I started to lean toward business. It got me thinking that I might want to own my own business someday.”

Rafael Mendoza, an 11th-grade student at Tecumseh High School, said his interest in the program was sparked by the fact that he knew he wanted to attend college but was also having a rough time finding a focus.

He said he loved interacting with so many different people and the hands-on opportunities provided by the various colleges, including building an electric catapult in the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

“I would definitely encourage others to participate in this program. Walking into it I felt kind of lost,” said Mendoza. “There were so many opportunities and majors to choose from. Getting the chance to explore each and every one of them individually and having a day dedicated to that program definitely helped out a lot.”

Luisa Medina, a sophomore at Chaminade-Julienne High School, said the program not only helped her to look to her future with more clarity but also to identify opportunities as a member of the Latino community. She said she identified with her classmates, not only because they were Latinos like her, but also because they had the desire to be the first college graduate in their family and to help their families either financially or to make the path easier for future generations.

“Many think that it is impossible to attend college because of finances, but I learned that there are many ways I can help make it happen through scholarships and other programs. This program helps Latinos realize that we deserve to be in college too,” said Medina.

Hernandez Hogan said the Latino Center Summer Program will tentatively be offered June 18-20 and June 25-27, 2024. To learn more, visit wright.edu/latino-center or contact Hernandez Hogan at catherine.hernandez@wright.edu or 937-775-2105.

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