Coming Into Focus

Latino, Native American college prep programs renewed by 175K grant

The path to college is coming into focus. That's the impact for a number of Central Oregon Latino and Native American high school students who will soon benefit from a grant aimed at supporting the Office of Multicultural Activities' college prep programs at COCC.

The recently awarded two-year, $175,000 grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust's Equitable Education portfolio will help sustain COCC's college preparedness programs and promote college success for regional Latino and Native American high school students. Funds will be used to continue and build upon high school partnerships and summer learning symposiums.

In Oregon, for the 2015-2016 school year, the Latino high school graduation rate was 69.4 percent (compared with 76.6 percent for white students), while the Native American state high school graduation rate was 56.4 percent, representing the third lowest nationally. COCC's college preparation programs have sought to raise those numbers by reaching out to regional high school students and mentoring them to stay on the educational path with inspiration and direction.

The Equitable Education grant will restart existing programs beginning in January of 2018; funding for all programming will affect some 130 students per year. The college's existing Latino College Preparation Program, or "Avanza," will continue its mentorship and resource role with Bend High School, Mountain View High School, Redmond High School, Ridgeview High School and Crook County High School, while adding service to Madras and Culver high schools. Students earn one hour of transferrable college credit for each Avanza course they complete. The Avanza program coordinator's role will increase to full-time, allowing for added class sessions and school interactions. 

"Being in the class actually motivated me even more to attend college," shared a past Avanza program participant. "I am hoping I can keep learning and improving my skills to prepare for college." Another student added, "I participate in Avanza because there I know that my voice matters. The feeling of a safe space where I can connect with other youth of my ethnicity has been very educational, as well as fun!" 

The existing Native American College Preparation Program, or "The Good Road," will restart its involvement at Redmond High School, Madras High School and the Roots Alternative Education Program at Warm Springs. The grant also creates a new half-time coordinator position for this program. 

Significant to the success of the classes is keeping them culturally relevant. The Latina and Native American program coordinators serve as role models who appreciate the cultural values of the students and serve as caring and involved mentors. 

Additionally, two multi-day summer symposiums—"Ganas" for Latino students and "STRIVE" for Native American students—where high school students stay at the Bend campus and get a feel for college life while developing academic and leadership skills, will continue for one summer each.

The current programs morphed from a statewide effort called the Oregon Leadership Institute that sought to build college prep skills for Latino high school students. Karen Roth, director of COCC's Office of Multicultural Activities, guided the launch of the budding programs five years ago and is thrilled for continued funding (which refresh funds from a Higher Education Coordinating Commission grant that ended in June). "It's exciting for how we partner with the local school districts and it's exciting for Latino and Native American students and their families," she said. "And it's really great news for our college."          

Long-term, measuring high school and college graduation rates is key to assessing the programs. But for now, positive data is coming in: "We know that all the seniors who attended Ganas have come to COCC for the last two years," added Roth.

By Mark Russell Johnson, COCC College Relations

GANAS Students