Organization Helps Boost Latino Graduation –

Though college completion among the nation’s young adults is on the rise, significant gaps still exist when it comes to educational attainment among different populations.

One of the reasons for which Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) – a nonprofit organization founded in 2010 – was created is to promote educational attainment among Hispanics throughout the United States.

“One of the main challenges facing Latino students is the realization and knowledge that college is possible and affordable,” said Maite Arce, HAF’s executive director. “The greatest barrier is the belief that college is not a possibility. It is!”

Arce said the sooner this is acknowledged, the sooner Latinos can better prepare themselves for the life-altering achievement of earning a college degree.

“My experience as the eldest child in an immigrant family, originally from Mexico, helped me to realize the importance of bridging the gap between families like my own and information resources, as well as opportunities that exist, but may be inaccessible due to language, trust barriers, or unfamiliarity with surroundings,” she said.

HAF offers numerous resources to Hispanic families to help them achieve academically. One resource is tax education, a free program done in partnership with H&R Block.

“We’ve been helping Hispanic families around the country understand the process and need for filing taxes,” Arce said. “Families looking for financial aid or other support need to have an accurate tax history.”

Arce said affordability is another barrier for Hispanics in attending or completing college.

HAF recently participated in New Futuro’s College Prep Fairs, which were held in five U.S. cities and connected Hispanics with various educational resources, including colleges, financial aid, and college-minded businesses. HAF provided workshops for parents and students on how to prepare for, and finance, higher education.

“Through New Futuro, we’re helping Latinos realize that there is a lot of financial help out there if you want to attend college,” Arce said. “There are government loans, numerous scholarships, and work-study programs.”

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An essential part of preparing Latinos for higher college completion begins with their K-12 education, an area in which Arce believes could be better.

“While it may be improving, our traditional K-12 education system needs to do more to help prepare Hispanics for college,” she said. “The fact that only about six percent of current college students are Hispanic demonstrates that we need to provide more support. By continually raising awareness about this issue, we’ll see more changes occurring in the future to help close the gaps between Hispanics and other populations.”

Arce said HAF will grow its efforts around college access for 2013, with the goal being to help Hispanics understand the college system and connect them with the resources necessary to make college affordable and obtainable.

“Our website provides one of the most extensive free directories of bilingual community services in the nation. Users can search for education services ranging from ESL to tutoring,” she said. “The opportunities are there; it’s just a matter of taking advantage of them.”

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