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New Initiative at Marywood University: The Latino Youth Program

by Sister Angela Kim, IHM

This Spring semester, seventeen Latino American high school students (twelve 11th and five 12th grade) took their first college course (three credits, English writing class) through Marywood University’s Momentum Program, an external grant designed to empower local high school students to take college classes. There are also twenty Latino students, from 7th to 10th grade, who are taking weekly writing classes at Marywood University.
The history of the Latino high school program at Marywood University began with my conversations with Alejandra Marroquin, an IHM Associate and an alumna of the MSW program, and Jenny Gonzalez Monge, a MSW student at Marywood University.

Almost three years ago, I met Alejandra, and since then we have had numerous conversations about how to prepare the Latino high school students for a successful college/university education. Jenny, currently my student, passionately shared her own story of the U.S. education system, observing, “I have seen how easy it is to go unnoticed and fall between the cracks. Unfortunately, many of our immigrant parents have little knowledge or the resources to help us prepare for a college education. In my case, my parents' lack of education, understanding of the U.S. education system, and language barrier diminished the possibilities of me going to college.”

Jenny and Alejandra organized an evening meeting with Latino parents and students at St. John Neumann parish in South Scranton. During this meeting, students expressed a desire to improve their writing skills and to take the SAT prep class; their parents expressed a desire to obtain more information about the U.S. education system. During the meeting, two needs were articulated: a writing class for 7-12 grade students and an SAT prep group for 10th and 11th grader students.

I prayed and searched for resources to meet the Latino students’ educational needs. In December 2016, I learned about the Momentum Program offered by Marywood University, with 15 available spots. The details of this program aligned with my dream to begin a minority student outreach program.

In early January 2017, Jenny, Alejandra and I met the Latino parents and students again and we shared the Momentum Program with them. Both parents and students were enthusiastic and appreciative; the 15 available spots were taken immediately and a waiting list was created. Additionally, Sister Jane Snyder volunteered to teach the writing course for the 7th to 10th grade students.

Alejandra and Jenny noted that, “This is the first time anyone has approached the Latino group and given our children a chance to compete and succeed at the college level. Already this program is changing many Latino families’ lives by giving this group of students a chance to get ahead in their future college education. We are confident these programs will grow and flourish into a life-changing experience for many more Latino students. We are excited to be part of this historic moment.”

Both the Latino community and I are grateful for the successful launch of this program at Marywood University. In thanking Sister Mary Persico, President, the community expressed their gratitude for her “unwavering support and encouragement to continue developing these programs…We truly appreciate the opportunity being given to these students to enhance their education.”

Thanks are also due to Sister Christine Mihelich for her enthusiastic “Yes” to teach an extra writing course, English 160, for Latino high school students, and to Sister Jane Snyder, who willingly volunteered to teach writing classes for non-Momentum Latino students.

It is my hope that the Latino youth program at Marywood University will continue to grow and deepen its sustainability in the future as a reflection of the University Mission Statement, “To build a welcoming and supportive community" that "educates global citizens to live responsibly in an interdependent world."