"SŪ Se puede" campaign aims at increasing college success

Email this article 11/25/2013

"Sí Se Puede," a new campaign to increase awareness, enrollment and success in higher education among Hispanics, is being launched this month across the region by Educational Programs and Opportunities to Create Achievement (EPOCA), a team of representatives from business, educational, public sector and community groups. WATCH VIDEO

Partners on the EPOCA team include AEP Texas, HEB, Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), Community Health Development, Inc., Eagle Pass ISD, Uvalde CISD, Middle Rio Grande Workforce Solutions, Sul Ross State University – Rio Grande College, St. Henry De Osso Family Project and Southwest Texas Junior College.

Funding for the project comes from a $600,000 grant from the Lumina Foundation secured by Southwest Texas Junior College in 2011. SWTJC was the only college in Texas, and one of 12 partnerships nationwide, to be awarded grants through Lumina's Latino Student Success Initiative.

"We will launch the Sí Se Puede campaign in connection with the start of the new school year," Willie Edwards, a UCISD trustee and EPOCA core-team member, explained. "We also plan to have a big presence at this year's Palomino Festival."

According to Edwards, posters in English and Spanish will be placed in businesses, schools and other public places across the region. The posters show a progression of students from kindergarten through college graduate, with the slogan: Yes You Can – It's never too early, or too late, to think about a college education.

At the Palomino Festival, facts about the value of a post-secondary degree or credential, Hispanic college attainment percentages and predicted educational requirements for the future labor force, will be displayed on video screens at various locations on the grounds of the Uvalde County Fairplex.

Local elementary school children will be featured in a video explaining steps young students should take to get ready for college. Testimonials from non-traditional students who have returned to college later in life and succeeded will also be featured.

"In 2008, the Lumina Foundation announced its ‘Big Goal' that, by the year 2025, 60% of Americans will have a high-quality post-secondary credential," said UCISD school trustee Willie Edwards, an EPOCA core team member. "In 2011, Lumina announced a $7.2 million Latino Student Success Initiative, to help reach this goal."

According to Edwards, Lumina's logic for targeting Hispanics is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau which shows Hispanics lagging well behind other ethnic groups in college attainment.

 "In 2011, among all U.S. adults between the ages of 25 and 64, a total of 38.7% had attained an associate degree or better. Among Hispanics, the attainment was only 19.31%, the lowest of all ethnic groups," Edwards said. "Since Hispanics are the fastest growing population in the U.S., and they have the lowest college attainment, Lumina knows that increasing the college success rate for Hispanics will be critical in reaching its ‘Big Goal.'"

Texas Hispanics have an even lower college attainment rate than the national average at 17.18%, according to data in Lumina Foundation's 2013 annual report: "A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education."

The Lumina Foundation report also lists overall college attainment rates for all Texas counties. Travis County (51.3%), Denton County (49.25%), Fort Bend (48.93), Kendall (48.88%) and Williamson (46.82%) are the top five counties in terms of overall college attainment.

Statistics for the 11 counties served by SWTJC show attainment rates as follows: Medina, 27.56%; Real, 26.9%; Val Verde, 26.17%; Edwards, 25.63%; Uvalde, 24.3%; Kinney, 22.98%; Maverick, 20.10%; Zavala, 16.99%; Dimmit, 16.16%; La Salle, 11.84%; and Frio, 11.59%.

Of the $600,000 awarded through the grant, the EPOCA team gave sub-grants of $80,000 to the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District and $50,000 to the St. Henry de Osso Family Project.

"UCISD is using its grant to help fund a new college readiness advisor position and to fund new initiatives through the district's parenting program," Edwards explained. "St. Henry De Osso will use its funds to expand its ‘I Can' program for at-risk students."

SWTJC will utilize the remainder of the grant funds to strengthen its collaboration with Rio Grande College, improve student advising, expand and strengthen dual enrollment programs, increase tutoring and other services offered through the college's student success centers and add summer orientation programs at all main college campuses.

"We commend the Lumina Foundation for its focus on Hispanic student success and we look forward to working with all our EPOCA partners to help raise the bar on college attainment across the region," said SWTJC President Dr. Hector Gonzales.

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