Equity Program at LTCC helps Latinx students, other minorities, succeed | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Equity Program at LTCC helps Latinx students, other minorities, succeed

Salinas celebrates scholarships for Equity Program students.
Provided/ LTCC

Lake Tahoe Community College prides itself on being a beacon in the community, especially for latinx and other minority students, through the Equity Program.

The Equity Program helps students who are minorities, homeless, low-income, a former or current foster youth or first generation college students navigate college life and thrive.

It was created in 2015 as an effort to provide resources for Hispanic/Latinx students, a group that, at the time, was underrepresented and had success rates below LTCC’s average.

LTCC has been designated by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, meaning they have a full-time equivalent undergraduate student enrollment that is at least 25% Hispanic.

According to Equity Program Director Laura Salinas, the latinx community is no longer the largest group that is underserved but the program still does a lot of work with that community.

Students enrolled in the Equity Program are provided mentoring services, free textbook rental, priority registration, counseling services, cultural events and university campus trips.

One student who benefitted from the Equity Program is Brian Grajeda, a first generation student who was struggling to get through school.

“I really wasn’t involved and I really wasn’t getting the help I needed until I found the Equity Program,” Grajeda said.

Grajeda said he didn’t want to be at school and would leave as soon as classes were done until the Equity Program helped turn things around.

“I started getting help with textbooks, I got a mentor that really brought me into the program,” Grajeda said. “It made me feel really part of the school so the Equity Program didn’t just give me the resources like textbooks and laptop lending, they gave me a place where I really felt wanted and needed.”

Grajeda, who transferred to Sac State after graduating from LTCC, said that alone helped him get his grades up.

Part of the program’s goal is to close the gap of successful course completion between Hispanic students and the overall population. In the 2016-17 summary, just two years of the program, Hispanic students were within 5% of the overall population.

They also saw an increase in completion of basic English courses, certificate completion and transfer rates.

Part of LTCC’s goal as a whole is for students to transfer to a university after LTCC and the Equity Program focuses on that goal for latinx students.

Ivy Alvarez, a student who was part of the Equity Program, transferred to UC Santa Barbara even though she hadn’t wanted to attend college at all after high school.

Alvarez was in the top 15% of her high school class, participated in extracurriculars while helping her single-mom raise her longer siblings.

She said after high school, she, “just wanted to lay in bed forever,” but one of her teachers convinced her to attend Senior Day at LTCC.

There, she met Salinas and learned about the Equity Program and was inspired to enroll at LTCC.

One of the resources the Equity Program offers, which Salinas takes pride in, is the mentorship program.

Student mentors check-in with other students in the program to make sure they are staying on top of their course work, offer advice and lend an ear.

Salinas said with the mentorship program, they are “checking in consistently.”

Alvarez was inspired by Salinas and became a lead mentor.

“In doing so, I was able to participate in panels and do outreach activities and be a bigger part of the campus even though that wasn’t really my intention to begin with, she really is just a bright and vibrant soul that makes any student want to be more motivated,” Alvarez said.

Grajeda also was inspired by Salinas; both were first generation college students and Grajeda looked to Salinas for support.

“I needed to see that the process works, if you go to college as a first generation student you can get through it, and then you can find a job or you can be successful and you can be a leader and give back to the community like Laura did,” Grajeda said.

Alvarez and Grajeda said, being first generation students, they were able to find support in the Equity Program that they couldn’t necessarily find at home.

“Support is an understatement, they carry you through everything and it’s not just a program, it really is a family,” Alvarez said.

The Equity Program doesn’t just offer academic support but also cultural support. Through the Equity Program, students are encouraged to participate in the H.O.P.E Club (Hispanos Orgullosos Preparandose Para La Excelencia). The club’s goal is, “ to set up a stronger Latino community by volunteering, hosting events, and activities that students and community members can get involved in while also fundraising for scholarships for undocumented students.”

Earlier this month, the club hosted Undocumented Student Action Week that included informational sessions about how to be an ally to undocumented students and immigration information as well as a movie screening.

The City of South Lake Tahoe recently joined into a Sister City agreement with Ameca, Mexico.

Grajeda has family from Ameca and said most of the students in the Equity Program have ties to Ameca. He is excited to see how the Equity Program uses that agreement to make new connections and continue helping first generation students.

Alvarez and Grajeda both say they owe their success to the Equity Program.

“They were the family at LTCC that made it so I wanted to get through school,” Grajeda said. “I had a group of friends there that became family and that really supported me. Without the Equity Program, I wouldn’t be at Sac State right now so I owe all my success to that program.”

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