Avanzando – 27, 48, 60 and Counting

Photo Credit: Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

Number of Recipients Supported is Up, Again

Now in its third year, Avanzando is continuing to grow – in numbers of students, student retention and graduation rates, and access to additional opportunities.

In 2011, the program began with 27 scholarship recipients. It now supports 60. Established to support Latina/Latino scholarship recipients, the new and returning students were recently praised for their commitment to the program.

“Avanzando is a model of growth and expansion, and it didn’t happen by accident,” said Anne Spenner, vice chancellor of the Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. “From the start, UMKC and the Hispanic Development Fund had as our goals increased retention rates and improved graduation rates. Now would be a good time to give our scholars a round of applause because these efforts are working. It is truly a cause for celebration.”

The students and their families were recognized at the recent 2013 Avanzando Fall Reception by UMKC’s Division of Diversity and Inclusion, the Hispanic Development Fund and the Hispanic Advisory Board leaders, as well as community supporters.

“This is a great partnership – UMKC, the Hispanic Advisory Board and the Hispanic Development Fund,” said Ramon Murguia, chairman of the HAB. “Avanzando provides hours of mentoring, numerous organizational activities and critical programs for our students.”

Murguia also referred to the growth of the scholars. One such scholar – Jessica Rodas – gave the featured student address at the reception.

“Who likes cheese? We all like cheese, and we are like swiss cheese – full of little holes caused by life’s traumas or our insecurities,” said Rodas, a pre-law student. “Avanzando has made it possible for me to fill up those little holes in my cheese. The level of support here and at the HDF – while I’m taking 15 credit hours and working four jobs – is phenomenal. I can go to college, get my law degree and help my family get ahead.”

Another Avanzando success is fundraising. Recently, the program received two grants to augment growth opportunities for its students.

A five-day Summer Enrichment Program was held to help get students off to a good start. The students attended a series of workshops on leadership, writing, Latina/o Studies, managing stress and conducting research.

Yet another grant provides undergraduate research opportunities for eight Avanzando students. Awarded by the Patricia and John Morgan Academic Advancement Fund, the students are able to participate in an academic research initiative that began in the fall of 2013 and runs for one academic year.

Each of the recipients has a faculty sponsor to help them develop a basic knowledge of conducting research and gaining access to critical resources. The faculty sponsor also helps increase the student’s confidence in their abilities to succeed in a research project.

The recipients and their faculty sponsors are:

Idaima Calderon and Paula Cupertino, Juntos Center for Advancing Latino Health, University of Kansas Medical Center

Maritza Fernandez and Patricia Kelly, UMKC School of Nursing & Health Studies

Samantha Gonzales and Jennifer Lundgren, UMKC Dept. of Psychology

Elizabeth Herrera and Lindsy Myers, UMKC Dept. of Foreign Languages and Literature

Joseph Salazar and Norma Cantu, UMKC Latina/Latino Studies

Sara Trompeter and Simon Kaja, UMKC School of Medicine, Vision Research Center


Christian Vargas and Bonnie Branson, UMKC School of Dentistry, Dental Hygiene

Cynthia Villalvazo and Bonnie Branson, UMKC School of Dentistry, Dental Hygiene

The students will present their research projects at the Annual SEARCH Research Symposium in April 2014. And for one student, the initial work is already underway.

Idaima Calderon, a third year student in pre-med health sciences, summarized her project.

“Our plan is to evaluate and assess the presence of the metabolic syndrome in Latino children in rural Kansas,” said Calderon. “Once we determine the risk factors for obesity, we will develop an intervention program based on our findings and create a pilot program with 10 children.”

This program is a partnership between the Division of Diversity and Inclusion at University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Hispanic Development Fund.


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