Student-success initiatives create a web of support and community for Latinx student
Pamela Meneses was already on campus the summer before her freshman year as an Emerging Leader Scholar. She was taking advantage of the Early Start program when she learned about another opportunity – Avanzando Through College.
“As part of Early Start, we had an activity at the Latino Cultural Center making Guatemalan worry dolls with free tacos and the staff told me about the Avanzando Through College program they were launching when the fall semester started,” said Meneses.
Meneses applied for the new program and, after an interview, was selected to join the first cohort. Purdue’s Latino Cultural Center received the Avanzando Through College grant award in late summer of 2021 and launched its inaugural cohort later that fall. Avanzando Through College is a two-semester program that helps first-generation Latino students navigate the college system. The program features a 13-workshop curriculum that provides participants with opportunities to gain the skills to graduate from college in a timely manner and soft skills that apply to future career opportunities.
“My favorite part of the Avanzando Though College program was that it was something that I didn’t know I needed,” Meneses said. “I joined not knowing what to expect and I found community within my community. To be surrounded with other students who are in similar situations, being the first in their family to attend college to pursue a bachelor's degree, it was so inspiring. We were able to learn about resources on campus and how to succeed as first-generation students.”
Meneses is now a second-year student double-majoring in political science and law and society with minors in human rights studies and Spanish. She hopes to attend law school, specializing in immigration law and says she’s grateful for the networking and faculty interaction the Emerging Leaders program has offered.
“Emerging Leaders is another great, supportive program,” she said. “There is so much faculty support and networking within my discipline, I’m definitely making connections that I would have missed out on if I weren’t in the program.”
Another hallmark of the Emerging Leader Scholars program is the opportunity to study abroad. The Batesville, IN native spent this past summer in Madrid, Spain living with a host family and studying Spanish Culture and Civilization and Arte del Prado.
“It was a fully immersive experience,” Meneses adds. “Both classes were taught in Spanish, and we were expected to respond back in Spanish.”
While in Spain, Meneses visited Barcelona, Grenada, Segovia, Toledo, Bilbao and other historical cities and admits that she had a lot to learn about a culture so different from her own experiences.
“Everything was so different,” she said. “From the way of life to the environment, to the food, to even the transportation system, it was eye-opening to say the least. Being in a foreign country and not knowing anyone was nerve-racking yet exciting at the same time. I was able to immerse myself into the new culture and learn about the way of life there. It was an experience that I am so thankful for because it gave me some of the best memories and some of the best friendships.”