Avanzando Matters

Photo credit: Brandon Parigo, Strategic Marketing and Communications

Newly Published Scholars Share Thoughts about Program’s Success

More than 20 of the 2016-2017 Avanzando scholars agreed to participate in an intensive program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City prior to the beginning of the semester.

Now in its fifth year, Avanzando’s Summer Enrichment Program provides opportunities for students to examine Latinx culture, gender roles and identity. Workshops enhance writing and academic skills, as well as interviewing and public speaking confidence. Scholars explore personal finance, self-care and stress management along with strategies for preparing for graduate and professional school.

Like the program participants before them, the rewards for this year’s scholars were great.

On Sunday afternoon, the Enrichment Program officially began with a welcome for the students and their families. It included an opportunity to discuss the value the Latinx students bring to UMKC and the importance of their parents’ support; a presentation titled “Latinx Examining and Claiming Their Place in Higher Education;” and a discussion on financial aid.

The Avanzando scholars understand and appreciate the inclusion of the family in discussions, which is an important aspect of their culture.

“I truly value the Avanzando program, not only the Summer Enrichment Program, which is amazing,” said Chavely Conde, a health science major. “Avanzando means family, acceptance and multicultural to me, where everyone can come, and help each other while pursuing a professional career. For UMKC, Avanzando means embracing and celebrating diversity,” she said.

Norma Cantu, Ph.D., former UMKC professor of English and Latina/Latino Studies (LLS), returned to UMKC to lead the writing workshops and engage students in utilizing UMKC resources available to them.

“The Avanzando Summer Enrichment Program allowed me to connect with Latinx students and to offer some lessons I think will help as they progress in their academic endeavors,” said Cantu. “I personally feel that the value of the program is threefold: for the students, obviously, they learn about resources, connect with other Latinx faculty and students and engage in personal growth.”

Based on the work conducted during her writing workshops, Cantu presented a ‘first’ to the scholars – “You are now published authors in a student publication, a collection of student writings,” said Cantu.

She had printed and bound the collection of student poems and narratives, which were based on their personal reflections on their identities and who they are as Latinxs in the U.S.

Avanzando student and education major Irvin E. Parga said the atmosphere in the program is an advantage for him.

“I love Avanzando because I’m in an atmosphere where people with similar backgrounds as mine can get together and talk about the challenges we face and what’s to come in our professional careers as Latinos,” said Parga. “The faculty and staff, who are involved heavily, invest in us and offer us guidance so that we can obtain a degree in our respective field of study,” he said.

“Being Latino: Examining Culture, Tradition, Gender Roles and the College Experience” was led by Uzziel Pecina, Ph.D. an assistant teaching professor in the UMKC School of Education; Elsa Ruiz, Ph.D., professor, University of Texas at San Antonio; and Rachel McCommon, UMKC Admissions office. For Parga and the other students, this workshop provided a safe, friendly environment to discuss their family lives and traditional roles often based on gender.

The workshops, social activities and the discussions in which the students engaged during the Summer Enrichment Program were nicely summed up by Karla Martinez, a nursing major.

“Avanzando was a good opportunity for me to learn how to talk to people and network. It also helped me build camaraderie with fellow UMKC students. Now I don’t feel like I’m alone on campus,” she said.

Established in 2011, Avanzando currently supports approximately 70 recipients of the Hispanic Development Fund and the Agapito Mendoza scholarships in their academic and career pursuits. This retention and graduation program is a partnership between the UMKC Division of Diversity and Inclusion and HDF and includes academic support, mentoring and enhanced access to campus and community resources.


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