More than 85 Spanish-speaking juniors and seniors representing area schools like Crosby, Kennedy, Waterbury Career Academy, and Wilby gathered in Naugatuck Valley Community College’s Technology Hall Friday, January 27 in a special College-hosted visit aimed at accommodating and addressing the needs of English Language Learners. These local students spent the morning learning about some of the things to anticipate as they transition into the next chapter of their educations. Students participated in info sessions, campus tours, financial aid workshops, and even got to eat lunch among current NVCC students in the College’s cafeteria—all events featured in the agenda were translated into Spanish for those students who may be at different stages of their learning and acclimation to the U.S. Several financial aid workshops were given simultaneously, each workshop individually conducted with the English-language proficiency of participants in mind. The focus of these workshops was to help students learn about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, (FAFSA.). Many of the seniors in attendance were assisted through the process of filling out the FAFSA, which can prove quite tricky even for the most proficient English speaker. NVCC partnered with the Hispanic Federation, a U.S.-based non-profit organization, which provides grants to Latino agencies serving vulnerable members of the Hispanic community and which advocates nationally on issues like education and economic empowerment. The Hispanic Federation funds a chapter of CREAR Futuros (creating futures), a working group on NVCC’s campus that trains current Hispanic students at NVCC to serve as peer mentors. The day’s sessions were deeply supported by NVCC’s Bridge to College Office which runs GEAR UP, a seven-year, state-funded grant program designed to significantly increase the number of low-income students prepared to enter and succeed in college by providing early intervention, testing, advising, and academic and social support. Through programs like GEAR UP, members of the NVCC community already work in partnerships with these and other high schools in the College’s 22-town service region.
NVCC Bridge to College Director David Celotto said today’s visit, “provided a rich and engaging opportunity for our local students to learn about the institution. The visit was an example of the collaborative nature among NVCC faculty, staff, and the community. Being able to provide high school students with methods to easily access higher education is our mission and we are excited to see what the future holds for this group."
Last September, the U.S. Department of Education ranked NVCC as a top college in the nation, through a survey evaluating public, two-year colleges for their effectiveness in serving low-income students with relatively high outcomes. NVCC ranked second of the top 25 colleges in this national survey. What’s more, Hispanic student enrollment has increased by 12%. Now more than a quarter (26.4%) of NVCC students are Hispanic, which has resulted in NVCC’s becoming designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) by the U.S. Department of Education.