New name, new opportunities: Introducing WNC’s Latino Leadership Academy

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The 2019 graduation class for Western Nevada College’s Latino Cohort.

Courtesy Steve Yingling, Western Nevada College

Western Nevada College has provided Latino students with the opportunity to attend, thrive and excel academically for a decade. Since its inception, WNC’s Latino Cohort has provided support to more than 500 Latino students, empowering them to earn their associate degree before pursuing a four-year degree or entering Nevada’s workforce. 

Now, WNC is pleased to announce new opportunities for its Latino students through WNC’s Latino Leadership Academy. The program will continue serving the needs of first-generation Latinos transitioning from high school into college.

“We take great pride in reporting that our Latino students graduate at a higher rate than the college average graduation rate,” said Program Coordinator and Founder Lupe Ramirez.

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In addition to guiding students through a rigorous academic plan, students also participate in leadership opportunities including the college’s annual Leadership Summit, network with city officials, serve on governing boards and volunteer in community events. Through these activities they develop confidence and discover their leadership potential.

“Starting college is not easy, but with the help of the academy they made my journey a great success,” Sindy Barajas said.

Since 2010, the Latino Cohort has helped Latino students at WNC overcome potential cultural barriers so they can attain an associate degree and be prepared to continue their education at a four-year school or transition directly into the workplace successfully.

“Our goal is to create that bridge for the youth to go to UNR and finish their bachelor’s degree,” Ramirez said.

The Latino Cohort, now the Latino Leadership Academy, annually hosts the Day of the Dead celebration, which includes a variety of games.

Past cohort members have shared what the program has done for them:

“The cohort has helped me stay on track with all my credits and classes I need for the degree I am seeking. Also, being in the cohort has helped me fill out scholarships and also financial aid which was important to me because when I was going into college my parents and I didn’t know how to do any of it,” said Liliana Arroyo, who went on to become a cohort coach.

Frankie Perez, a 2013 WNC graduate and a member of the first cohort who later became a code officer for the city of Reno and is also serving on various governing boards, said, “The cohort gives you that support system. If I needed help in anything, financial aid wasn’t coming in or whatever, they would be the first ones to jump in to help me.”  

Other students who graduated from the program are serving in the community as deputy officers, nurses, engineering, social workers and accountants.

The cohort has done much more for these students. They are learning the value of serving the community they live in, interning, networking with the city’s movers and shakers, learning about scholarships and internships, building relationships, learning the importance of early enrollment for classes, working on campus while going to school full time and sharing their culture with the community.

Ramirez said it’s important for students to become engaged with the program as soon as possible.

Western Nevada College’s Latino Cohort started the 2019-20 school year with a hike to Mount Rose, giving students and campus leaders spectacular views of Lake Tahoe.

“Students who start the process earlier in the year, their level of confidence increases and, as a result, they are more successful. The students who apply late have a difficult time engaging in college and are more reluctant in using the additional support,” she said.

The program includes a parent component that engages the family in higher education. The parents learn the value of achieving a college degree and the level of commitment necessary from the entire family, Ramirez said. The conversations involved during the in-take meetings empower the parents to prepare their children for an education beyond high school.

“That’s why it’s important to have these conversations with the families, not just the kids,” Ramirez said. “I know the parents get really excited, and even emotional, when we share the benefits of the programs with them. They are very appreciative and definitely very supportive.”

WNC is now recruiting for the 2020 Latino Leadership Academy and will celebrate the next decade with an inaugural celebration in August.

For additional information, please contact Program Coordinator/Founder Lupe Ramirez at 775-445-3215 or at lupe.ramirez@wnc.edu. She will be conducting phone interviews for interested students and is planning a parent information night via Zoom at 6 p.m. May 21. Join the meeting at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87402417460?pwd=eXB2QTFqSHp1bC8xRUhFNGNzN2xYQT09. If requested, the meeting ID is 874 0241 7460 and the password is 6F3Vei.

The deadline to apply for the program is June 1. Apply at  https://www.wnc.edu/latino-outreach/.

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