Kentucky Latino Education Alliance awards Centre College, Centro Latino and Eastern Kentucky University $35,000 for expanded educational outreach programming

Posted by Centre News in Campus, Community Service, News, Spanish 07 Mar 2014

centro_latino_kidsThe Centre College campus is home to 1,375 undergraduates, but twice weekly at 3:30 p.m., 45 students of a different variety file into the Chowan building. From children just beginning to go to school to those about to graduate high school, the students who visit campus each afternoon are the beneficiaries of the Warehouse After School Program, which has just expanded thanks to a $35,000 grant from the Kentucky Latino Education Alliance (K’LEA).

K’LEA is funded through Lumina Foundation and Bluegrass Community Technical College Latino Outreach and supports programs involved with Latino higher education; Centre’s Spanish and Bonner programs, who both coordinate the Warehouse After School Program and Summer Program, were the perfect candidates for this kind of support because they collaborate with Centro Latino and Eastern Kentucky University (EKU).

Centro Latino is a nonprofit organization dedicated to Latino education and acculturation; many Centre students and faculty are actively involved as volunteers, including Kendra Montejos ’14, the director of the Warehouse After School Program. The grant application was spearheaded by Associate Professor of Spanish Genny Ballard, with help from Associate Director for Corporate and Foundation Relations Kathryn Bowles, Montejos, Visiting Instructor of Spanish Maria Galvan and Centro Latino Chairperson Chris Claunch.

“Our program has many high-school students eager to learn more about higher education,” Montejos explains. “With this grant, we’ll be able to take our juniors and seniors on college tours; we’ll be able to provide parent and student information sessions over the application process; and our partnership with Eastern Kentucky University will aid Latino students in college throughout their undergraduate studies.

“This grant and our program are both striving for sustainability,” she adds. “One of our goals is to make sure Latino students are supported throughout their education.”

kids_carThe $35,000 grant will pay for much-needed educational materials, including ACT preparatory textbooks, reading and writing materials, math and science supplies and technological aids. Transportation to and from campus is another cost the grant subsidizes (pictured right).

“Many of the children come from families that cannot provide them transportation to any extracurricular activities,” Montejos says. “If it weren’t for the Centre Athletics vans we use to pick the students up from school and drop off at home, the majority of our students wouldn’t be able to attend our program.”

Funding will also sponsor Cradle School, the newest initiative of Centro Latino that provides classes for preschool children. Most importantly to Montejos, the funding helps the Warehouse After School Program and Summer Program target almost every student age group, providing much-needed consistency in their educational lives and goals.

“We’ve learned that a strong education starts with a strong foundation,” she explains, “but students also need a consistent support system throughout their education.”

Students participating in the program arrive on campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays, where they are given a snack and one hour of assisted homework time. This is when volunteers work on helping students who are failing or below grade level, assist with filling out college applications and preparing for standardized testing, and help provide information pertaining to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Later in the afternoon, the group plays a game before loading up and being dropped off at home.

Though only a few hours per week, the program is vital to the success of these young people.

“The Warehouse After School Program not only provides these children with educational assistance but also gives them a positive social environment,” Montejos says. “The program views education as a community effort—as leaders, we make sure to communicate with our students’ families and teachers. We work together to target each student’s weakness in order to help him/her be the best student possible. Our program helps students become confident in themselves and in their education.”

The Warehouse After School Program also benefits those Centre students who volunteer their time to tutor and supervise the participants.

“I’ve seen tutors become transformed by the population of people they’re serving,” Montejos explains. “We’ve had tutors become part of our program for all four years at Centre; these tutors basically become part of their students’ families.”

Professor Ballard echoes Montejos’ sentiments.

“This program allows Centre students to connect to our community in a meaningful way,” she explains. “It’s a student-run program; the Bonner leadership team has been running the program since it began four years ago, and while they serve the program by connecting the students and the kids, they are also learning valuable skills about how to interact with professionals in the community and with families.

“All the Centre students who work with the program come away from the experience with a deeper understanding of the cultures and institutions that impact the lives of the children they work with,” she continues. “This experience is a great supplement to the academic program at Centre, because students that participate in the Warehouse Program learn practical applications for so many things they learn in class—not just Spanish language and Latino culture but also immigration, marketing, finance, pedagogy, social justice, political science and many more disciplines.”

For students like Montejos, the program offers an opportunity not only to understand an important social and political problem but also to be an active part of the solution.

“The Warehouse After School Program has opened my eyes to national problems regarding education,” Montejos says. “We’ve seen these national problems here in the city of Danville. I’m excited to see how the program will grow to combat these problems.”

To learn more about Centre College’s involvement with Centro Latino, contact Chris Claunch or Kendra Montejos.

By Mariel Smith