by jamesc 5/9/2014 3:41:30 PM --
SOUTH SIOUX CITY – Preparing for college can be an overwhelming task for anyone. That task can be even greater for a family that has never had a single member attend college. Northeast Community College and South Sioux City Public Schools have created a partnership to make the job of college preparation less daunting, especially for Latino families. “We have a lot of first generation students with parents who are really uncertain how this college process works. They’re not sure how to help their children with college. So we came together to look at ways to provide them information so they can see that it may not be as intimidating as they think,” said Maria Gonzalez, advisor/recruiter for Northeast Community College in South Sioux City.
Since 65 percent of the students presently at South Sioux City High School are Latino, Northeast Community College has been looking at ways to better serve these students and their families. The College operates the College Center in South Sioux City through its partnership with Wayne State College.
Gonzalez said they decided to hold two events at DeAnda’s Restaurant over the past few months to offer college information to the families – and the response was terrific.
“While several high school band students and dancers provided our entertainment, we served free food and then gave families some general information about college,” Gonzalez said. “Then we wanted to hear from them, as to what they thought about college and address any misconceptions that they had. They were so excited to hear how affordable it is to attend Northeast Community College and of the programs that are offered not only here in South Sioux City, but in Norfolk as well.”
Gonzalez said the first session also featured a woman whose child went to college at Northeast. At the second session, a mother of a girl who went through the South Sioux City School System described how, at the beginning, she didn’t know many of the things that it would take to have her daughter go to college. “But she eventually came to understand the process. They both offered wonderful perspectives to people who were previously in their shoes, unsure as to what to do next,” Gonzalez said. “While it was good to hear from us, it was really good for the audience to hear from fellow parents.”
Gonzalez said many good questions were generated from parents at the two sessions. “As a result, the parents are now feeling comfortable to make appointments, with their high school students, to come in and learn more. These are more preliminary meetings with follow-ups scheduled during the appointments. This allows South Sioux City’s High School representative the opportunity to also talk about what it has to offer.”
Gonzalez said many Latino families are coming to realize that Northeast is local and it is there to help them. “We know what concerns there may be on our end, but we don’t know what all the questions are floating in their minds. These two events have helped address some of their concerns.”
Promotion of the events was also critical in getting the large number of people who attended both sessions. “A large percentage of the Latino community is Catholic, so the committee partnered with St. Michael’s Church, and Fr. Jose Mendoza to promote the events. He put information in the (church) bulletin and announced the events from the pulpit on Sundays. St. Michael’s has been wonderful to work with because a large percentage of our target audience of parents attends Mass there.”
Another outreach event to celebrate the cultural diversity in the South Sioux City area was held at the College Center in April. Northeast Community College, South Sioux City Community Schools and the Northeast Community College Multicultural Club sponsored a World of Fun carnival. Gonzalez said they hope to have more outreach events in the area over the summer. She said they also plan to conduct another informational meeting similar on Sunday, October 12.
“Northeast Community College in South Sioux City and South Sioux City High School really want to help the Latino community find life beyond high school for their kids,” Gonzalez said. We don’t want it to stop at high school, we want the kids to know that college is available and affordable and we’re able help to help them along the way.”
For additional information, contact Gonzalez at (402) 241-6408 or Becky Eckhardt, director of student services at South Sioux City Public Schools, at (402) 494-2425.
Northeast Community College and South Sioux City Public Schools held college information nights for Latino families in the South Sioux City area over the past few months. Among those taking part in the events were (front row from left) Monica Plasencia, a dancer from Estrellas de Jalisco, Jenny Gonzalez, registrar with the South Sioux City Public Schools, Emily Duncan, EL/ESL Coordinator at Northeast, and Yvette Aldana, also with Estrellas de Jalisco. Back row (from left) Amanda Nipp, director enrollment management at Northeast, Kathy Eckhardt, director of student services with South Sioux City Public Schools, Ted Myers, advisor at Northeast, Maria Gonzalez, advisor/recruiter at Northeast, and Brad Ranslem, director of admissions at Northeast.