July 22, 2014

Latino College Students benefit from El Centro

By Isaac Villela-Guzman

 This summer I’ve been thinking a lot about my college plans since I’m entering my senior year of high school in the fall. One resource that I found was El Centro at Austin Community College.  It is a college resource for Latinos currently enrolled at ACC or planning to go to college. The program reaches out to  Latinos in the community, particularly youth such as myself. It opens doors for people like me and other Latinos who have financial or family issues which make it harder to go to and stay in college. It’s a well thought out program helping Latinos prove anyone can go to college.

El Centro was started by Professors Mariano Díaz-Miranda and Terry Thomas. The idea of El Centro was created because Dr. Díaz-Miranda, a history professor, knew his students were more than capable to move on to a  four year institution from ACC. Together with Professor Terry, they have pushed students to complete their degrees at universities such as Texas State University and the University of Texas.

The purpose of El Centrois to “close the gap” by reaching out to the Latino community, setting the students on the track for college and showing them what resources are available to them. I was told of how El Centro reached out to the students of Creedmoor Elementary and made them believe college is in their futures. The children gave El Centro the t-shirt pictured above.

They signed their names on the back of the shirt and their graduation year from high school on the front, as thanks to El Centro. I remember in elementary school I never even had the thought of college, not until I reached high school did I think about it. I still am not one-hundred percent sure of my plans for college. I know I want to go to a community college, either ACC or CTC, for my basics.

Former ACC President, Dr. Steve Kinslow went to both El Centro and the African-American Cultural Center, to tell them they each needed to play a role in “Closing the Gap.” By working with elementaries (Creedmoor, Del Valle) and creating the Mexican-American Chicano Studies Department, El Centro is making a difference toward closing this gap. I am glad that Dr. Steve Kinslow found it beneficial to have both El Centro and the African-American Cultural Center become leaders in helping “Close the Gap” because Latinos and other minorities need the motivation to apply for college.

I asked if El Centro had a program for single parents because I’ve had family that experienced difficulty completing college because of this. El Centro does not have its own program to help single parents but recommends using ACC’s Office of Student Success programs. I appreciate that El Centro told me about ACC’s programs. I now believe that single parents can go to college with less hardship, better support their children and help “Close the Gap.”

“I expect commitment, to be responsible. I expect the student to know what sacrifice is,” said Dr. Díaz-Miranda about his personal expectation from students.  The students are expected to know that this is not just for them but for those that come after them.

Asked about how he would sum up the work of El Centro and all they have done, Dr. Díaz-Miranda said “We did it our way.” He was referring to all the Latinos inEl Centro and the Latino communities.

I personally was amazed about the whole experience of meeting the director of El Centro. I felt honored because this man has done so much and works hard to make these changes in our communities. To see what Dr. Díaz-Miranda went through to get El Centro up and running was a wonderful feeling of commitment and passion. I believe that El Centro will lead generations of Latinos into colleges and help our communities for years to come.

3 comments

Monica July 16, 2012, 16 24 pm

Very proud of your research and resulting work! Have shared via FB & Twitter! =)

Sarah Rafael Garcia July 16, 2012, 17 21 pm

Great write up Isaac! :)

7coldfires July 16, 2012, 19 13 pm

Very proud of my son not just for writing this piece but more so for researching the opportunity and finding out what he and several others have available to them. Anyone can accomplish what they want but it takes great effort and often much sacrifice to achieve our dreams. That does not mean that they are unattainable. Just that you must strive for them.

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