Latino fraternity helps prepare high schoolers for transition to college

College is the logical next step after high school for some local students, but some Latino students in the Arcola, Ill. area, require a little more convincing.

Seven middle and high school students from Arcola visited campus Monday afternoon to learn more about the University and the possibilities of pursuing higher education. The Lambda Upsilon Lambda fraternity, more commonly known as La Unidad Latina, worked together with the Arcola-based Mi Raza Community Center to organize a day for students to experience both academic and social aspects of college life. The day included campus tours, visiting lectures and a panel discussion with current University students.

“The goal is to spark an interest in … some form of higher education,” said Arturo Romo, community service chair for La Unidad Latina.

The fraternity’s “college immersion workshop” was the University chapter’s local version of the nationwide service, said Romo, sophomore in FAA. La Unidad Latina’s service day, “Doing It for the Kids Since 1982,” recognizes the year it first began assisting students in preparing and transitioning to college life.

“Traditionally our focus has been on kids in the inner city,” Romo said.

He said the fraternity usually travels to Chicago for this service. After hearing about Mi Raza’s work with Arcola’s “Project YOU,” a youth development program, the fraternity realized that rural children need just as much help as their urban counterparts.

Mi Raza, including director Tim Flavin, is involved with various forms of Hispanic and Latino outreach. Its “College is Possible” program helps students research scholarships, majors and universities and then assists them with their applications and essays. The program began in June 2010.

Flavin said the students he works with historically do not pursue secondary education, so he aims to raise “an awareness that they are able to go to college.” Similarly, La Unidad Latina was originally founded to recruit minorities into college.

During the panel discussion, several panelists addressed the financial issues that often preclude students from attending college. They explained the financial aid and scholarship application processes and emphasized the possibilities of paying for college through various sources of aid. Maritza Guzman, sophomore in DGS, reassured the students about the wealth of scholarships by citing the nontraditional requirements of some, such as being left-handed.

Daneli Rabanalez, junior at Arcola High School, said one of her concerns about college is the financial demand that would be placed on her family. However, her main concern is the separation from home.

Rigoberto Campos, sophomore in LAS, assured Rabanalez and the other students by telling his story of moving to campus with only one previous friend. He alleviated their worries about living with roommates and cleared their misconceptions caused by roommate horror stories.

“You just have to have a common respect,” Campos said.

Earlier in the day, students visited one lecture in subjects such as economics, animal sciences, biology, business or math. Jonathan Mendoza, junior at Arcola High School, was initially “scared” of the amount of notes taken by students — something he has not yet encountered — but he said he adjusted and followed advice given to him by University students.

“I passed out,” Mendoza said.