CHAPEL HILL (October 21, 2021) – The college admission process is complicated as it is.
Just imagine trying to navigate it in a new language: Acronyms like SAT, ACT and FAFSA1 to translate. Schedules for new tests and varying deadlines for applications to different schools.
Those are just some of the barriers the children of a growing Latinx population in North Carolina face when they think about college. All too many decide college is not for them – not to mention that many are forced to pay out-of-state tuition in North Carolina.2
But LatinxEd exists to support North Carolina’s Latinx students on several levels – both by helping students and their families navigate the college application process, and by building Latinx leaders so those students see someone who looks like them at the front of class or as principal of their school.
“LatinxEd is an invitation for others to join this movement to ensure that Latinx immigrant families have the freedom to dream and create a better future for their families and their children,” Elaine Townsend Utin, co-founder and executive director of LatinxEd, says in the accompanying video.
Since forming in 2018, LatinxEd has helped 400 students, families and professionals in North Carolina – a number that continues to grow.
The 2020 census revealed that Latinx people make up more than 10% of North Carolina’s population.3 And the NC Department of Public Instruction reported that Latinx students made up 19.8% of the state’s K-12 school population in 2020-21.4
Yet Latinx people are under-represented among North Carolina’s K-12 teachers and principals. So some of LatinxEd’s efforts are designed to reimagine how an inclusive school looks.
Its leadership programs help students embrace their cultural identity and feel comfortable with themselves – most don’t hear much about Latinx history, or Mexican-American history, in their high-school history lessons.
“It is really challenging to be in spaces where you don’t see yourself reflected, whether that is in leadership or even in curriculum,” says Utin. “As LatinxEd, we are committed to investing in Latinx leaders to really rectify this challenge.”
Ricky Hurtado, Utin’s fellow co-founder, took one step toward rectifying it when he won election to the state House in an Alamance County district last year.5
BECAUSE LATINX students make up a significant and growing population in North Carolina schools, “That means that North Carolina’s success, educational success, is dependent on the Latinx community’s success as well,” Utin says.
Can North Carolina achieve its ambitious goal to have 2 million North Carolinians with a high-quality credential or degree by 2030, for example, without Latinx students as part of that equation?
The demographic facts pose a challenge to political and education leaders to think deeply about the diverse needs of Latinx families: “Families that are often navigating this education for the first time, as it is different from perhaps their home country,” Utin says.
Hence the focus on recognizing and creating leaders among teachers and school administrators: “If we are not present, we are not represented in this space, oftentimes our community is also suffering due to that lack of representation,” she says.
LatinxEd supports Latinx students through several programs:
- Somos Carolina (We Are Carolina): Somos Carolina supports Latinx students from 8th grade to college by helping them embrace their cultural identity, become innovative problem-solvers, and thrive as conscious civic leaders in their communities and future college campuses. Students begin their journeys with Somos Carolina during the Somos Carolina Summer Academy, a three-week enrichment experience for rising eighth-graders. The program is designed to help middle-school and high-school students embrace their culture, community, and leadership skills to ultimately be successful in high school, college, and life.
“Somos Carolina makes me feel proud of being Latina,” a student declares in one video.
- College y Consejos: A free online college advising space that centers cultura y comunidad for Latinx students in North Carolina. Students are assigned a virtual coach after an initial interview to help them and their families navigate the admissions process.
“My favorite part of advising is presenting options to students that they didn’t even know were available,” says Lina Palancares, a virtual coach. “When you’re the first person in your family to go to college, sometimes you don’t even know the right questions to ask, so for me the more important thing is giving students as much information as possible so that they can make the best choice for themselves.”
- 20 Under 20: Through this program, LatinxEd Identifies and elevates young leaders – lifelong learners who serve their community and already demonstrate leadership – and build a network of young leaders who can share their experiences with the Latinx community.
1 Free Application for Federal Student Aid: https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa.
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