K-State Olathe teams up with community partners to increase post-secondary education for Latinos

March 4, 2021 | Written by Greg Tammen


Increasing the number of Latino students in Greater Kansas City's community, state and private colleges has become a key focus for K-State Olathe.

"The Latino community is rapidly growing in both Johnson County and the United States. Our education system has not kept pace with that growth, though, and too few Latino students are being served by our institutions of higher learning," said Laura Loyacono, director of education and community engagement at K-State Olathe. "Helping those students and their families navigate transitions from high school to college is central to our missions and crucial to the broader community."

K-State Olathe is teaming up with local organizations and schools to help with the effort.

In late March, the campus will host its "Latinos Go to College" event. The annual event for Latino families spotlights the pathways to college and payment options for earning a post-secondary degree. The bilingual event provides attendees with information and resources about 21st century programs and other high school preparation programs in area high schools that put students on the path to college. Attendees also learn about the benefits of community college and how an associate's degree can lead to a bachelor's or master's degree.

The event includes a virtual college fair with regional institutions, including K-State, the University of Kansas, Avila University, Donnelly College, Fort Hays State University, Kansas City Kansas Community College, Johnson County Community College and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

"Latinos Go to College" is a communitywide effort that includes education, community and faith-based cornerstones of the Latino community. For example, one of the organizing partners includes St. Paul Catholic Church in Olathe, which has a large Latino congregation. Because of that, Father Michael Hermes sometimes holds college fairs at the church following Mass.

"We encourage all of our young people to consider going to college so that they can be prepared to serve our community and do something special with their lives," Hermes said. "The 'Latinos Go to College' event will help these students and their parents realize that a college education is an obtainable goal and within their reach. We plan to invite all of our students to attend."

K-State is establishing a high school to higher education pipeline for Latino students with the Kansas State College Advising Corps, or KSCAC.

The program, which is headquartered at K-State Olathe, stations recent K-State graduates in 13 Kansas City area high schools, many of which have serve a large Latino student body. Program recruiters work one-on-one with Latino and underrepresented students and help them explore post-high school education options, navigate the admissions and financial aid processes and a find a school that best fits their needs and career aspirations. This "best fit" approach could mean community college or a traditional university.

"The power of the College Advising Corps model is that high school students are able to connect with advisers with similar life experiences," said Meaghan Higgins, program director. "Advisers are able to tell their students, 'I went to college and so can you.' Working with a mentor who is will be with students every step of the way during senior year makes students' aspirations seem more attainable."

The campus also is involved with KC BizFest, an event that offers high school sophomores, juniors and seniors in Greater Kansas City – particularly those in the Latino community – the opportunity to learn a variety of life skills and business techniques. Students who are admitted into the program attend a 4-day intensive training in which they learn a variety of life skills and business techniques. During the event, students learn how to turn hobbies and skills into profit-making ventures, establish entrepreneurial and leadership goals, create plans for business and life and learn how to become effective leaders and team members.

KC BizFest is collaboration with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and 15 corporations, small business, colleges and universities. K-State matches the award amount students receive and offers additional scholarships to students who complete the program.