Local Hispanic education organization to work with NC State, other schools

With the help of money from a national $600,000 grant, five local colleges will be working with a philanthropic organization to make higher education more accessible to the growing Hispanic population.

The Lumina Foundation, a national institution that advocates for higher education, awarded the grant to an international organization for its “Triangle for Latino Student Success” project.

The international organization, called Hispanics in Philanthropy, promotes the welfare of the Latino community. It is partnering with a state group that focuses on Latino educational issues to implement the project.

The project, which intends to prepare the rising population of Latinos in the Triangle for higher education, will take on a multipronged approach, said Althea Gonzalez, N.C. program manager for Hispanics in Philanthropy.

It will help students through high school and the university application process, help families understand the process and work with counselors in the K-12 system, she said.

Universities will also be a part of the equation.

“We will be working with universities and colleges to attract and retain Latino students and deal with the barriers that Latino students face,” Gonzalez said.

There will be a six-month planning period, she said, and the bulk of the work will start in April and May.

The project targets three counties in the Research Triangle area as well as five colleges — Meredith College, N.C. State University and three community colleges.

Several N.C. universities have observed a gradual climb in their Latino student populations.

NCSU’s undergraduate Latino student population increased from 749 in 2009 to 838 in 2010, according to a report from the UNC system.

UNC-CH doubled its Hispanic population from 937 in 2009 to 1,983 in 2010. Despite its increase in Latino demographics, the University is not a part of the project.

Andrew Behnke, a professor at NCSU, is working with Hispanics in Philanthropy to increase the Latino population in higher education institutions by supporting pre-college students.

“Our focus is on the K-12 system,” he said.

One of the programs the university has planned would link its sophomores as mentors to high school sophomores.

North Carolina, which has the 11th highest Hispanic population in the country at 8 percent, is one of the 10 states that was granted funding by the Lumina Foundation, said Lucia Anderson, spokeswoman for the foundation.

She said the foundation chose schools in metropolitan regions with high proportions of Latinos and in areas with the fastest growing Latino populations.

According to NC.gov, 68.8 percent of Hispanics graduated from high school during the 2010-11 school year, the lowest ethnic percentile by 0.9 percentage points.

But project administrators hope to change these statistics.

“After four years, we hope that the project will be an excellent model that can then serve as a pilot project so that it can be expanded to other areas in the state,” Gonzalez said.

Contact the State & National Editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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