Reception celebrates new scholarship recipients
Students, mentors, faculty and administrators gathered on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus Aug. 6 for a reception and program celebrating the second year of the Avanzando program.
Established in 2011, Avanzando currently supports 48 recipients of the Hispanic Development Fund and the Agapito Mendoza scholarships in their academic and career pursuits. This retention program is a partnership between the UMKC Division of Diversity, Access and Equity and HDF and includes academic support, mentoring and enhanced access to campus and community resources.
“This collaboration brings together families, campus, community and business leaders to work together with scholars to ensure their success. When our students succeed we all succeed – everyone wins,” said UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton.
The program goals include increasing retention, improving graduation rates and assuring successful transitions of students into graduate school and/or career positions.
Avanzando is designed to ensure that each student receives individualized assistance in reaching their academic and career goals. The undergraduate and graduate student participants will gain exposure to research, service leadership and career opportunities.
For Giovanny Martinez – a senior who is beginning his second year in the Avanzando program – having a mentor has helped him in ways he had not previously considered.
“Last year, I had an external mentor from the Kauffman Foundation and an internal mentor, Jacob Wagner, an associate professor and director of urban studies. They offered assistance with my homework assignments and introductions to people in the community, including an individual who worked in criminal justice, my area of interest.”
An important aspect of the program is the internal and external mentoring. More than 50community, faculty and staff members serve as mentors for the students. While UMKC mentors help students navigate the campus, its services and the concerns facing those who are new to the university, community mentors support scholars in reaching their goals while connecting them to opportunities in the community.
“In keeping with the goals of the HDF, community mentors provide support and leadership training that ensures a new generation of Latina/Latino leaders are ready to contribute to their community and the larger society,” said Deputy Chancellor Karen Dace.
Keynote speaker Uzziel Pecina, an assistant clinical professor in the UMKC School of Education, said he benefitted from “360 degrees of support” from throughout the community in order to earn his degree and build his career.
“Because of that support, I realized there was no way I could fail unless I let it happen,” he said. His family values had earlier instilled in him a recognition of the need to give back in kind in return for that support.
One of his current mentees is Anabel Vargas, a senior in the UMKC School of Education and currently a student teacher at the J. A. Rogers Elementary School in Kansas City, Mo.
“He is and has always been accessible to me,” said Vargas. “Whether it was providing assistance for my classwork or methods to use at Rogers in the classroom, he would help me.”
Some individuals are unable to commit to serving as mentors, and they have agreed to provide informational interviews, job shadowing opportunities or internships, which helps to round out our current students’ needs.