I Can Overcome Any Barriers

Photo credit:  Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications.

And, You Can Too – Si Se Puede


The University of Missouri-Kansas City Avanzando program just received another feather in its cap.

Four of its scholars are designated as candidates to graduate with “Latin Honors Magna Cum Laude.”

They are Patricia Barra, who will receive a bachelor of arts in elementary education; Elizabeth Herrera will receive a bachelor of arts in communication studies and French Language and Literature; Andrés Rivera Hurtado, receiving a bachelor of business administration with a double emphasis in finance and real estate; and Anna Jobe will receive a bachelor of science in chemistry and Spanish.

Of course, all 13 of the 2014 graduating students in the program are considered high achievers and are being recognized for their scholarship, including an education specialist, a doctor of pharmacy and a graduate from the urban studies program.

Christian and Elvis Vargas are both scholars in the Avanzando program. Christian will receive a bachelor of arts in chemistry with a Spanish minor, as well as a bachelor in liberal arts. Her sister, Elvis, will graduate with a master of education in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in Teaching English as a Second Language. And, sister Anabel Vargas graduated from the program in 2013 and will complete a master’s program in education in May 2015.

Their mom was visibly proud. Si se puede. Yes, we can.

Avanzando, a partnership among UMKC, the Hispanic Advisory Board and the Hispanic Development Fund, provides hours of mentoring, numerous organizational activities and critical programs for the students.

Approximately 150 scholars, family members and friends attended the Avanzando Scholar Recognition Reception and Year End Celebration to honor the excellent work of its students. The Mariachi Azteca de Alta Vista Charter School provided the music for the evening. The director is Luis Portillo.

“We are here to celebrate the students’ accomplishments, and we really have something to celebrate,” said Susan Wilson, Ph.D., vice chancellor of the Division of Diversity and Inclusion.

“As the newly appointed Vice Chancellor for the Division of Diversity and Inclusion, I look forward to continuing to strengthen our partnership with the Hispanic Advisory Board and the Hispanic Development Fund,” said Wilson.

Recognized for their research, eight graduates participated in the Avanzando Research Scholar Initiative, funded by the Patricia and John Morgan Academic Advancement Fund. Four of the scholars focused on health in Hispanics. The fund provides support for undergraduates to conduct student/faculty-driven research.

Senior Anna Jobe provided insight into the program and the support she received while here at UMKC as she gave the keynote address.

“When I came to the United States at age 17, I couldn’t speak English. I learned English, even though I still struggle with it at times,” said Jobe. “I can overcome any barriers that arise, and I believe you can too. Si se puede.”

As a transfer student from Johnson County Community College, Jobe entered UMKC in 2010, received an HDF scholarship and became part of Avanzando in 2012-2013, the second year of the program. She received support from several individuals, including her mentor, Dr. Cindy Pemberton; and Marji Datwyler, director of the Avanzando program.

“When I stopped by any building, I could get a hug from someone and continue with my day,” said Jobe.

Jobe’s father was murdered, a victim of the crime and corruption in Chihuahua, and she wanted to leave school and her husband – temporarily – to return home to care for her mother and siblings. Her mother wouldn’t allow it.

“My mom said that with me far away I could do so much more, so I returned to school one week later and continued the studies as my father would have wanted,” said Jobe. “Si se puede.”

Jobe said the support she received from “her Avanzando family” and UMKC made her realize how much she could actually achieve.

She will graduate with a bachelor of science in chemistry and Spanish and has been accepted in the UMKC School of Dentistry, beginning in the fall 2014.

“I now want to leave a mark on the world, not just take up a spot,” said Jobe. “Si se puede.”

|Wandra Brooks Green, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications



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