Latinos In Action translate for parent-teacher conferences

Jerome High School sophomore Briseida Figueroa, left, helps translate for parent Araceli Garcia, with Victor Sanchez, during a conference with a teacher at Jerome Middle School on Oct. 15, 2014.

STEPHEN REISS, TIMES-NEWS FILE PHOTO

JEROME — A new University of Idaho project will help 40 Jerome middle schoolers stay on track academically and prepare for college.

The university announced Friday its new Latino Pre-College Outreach Project that will provide a full-time program coordinator on site at Jerome Middle School next school year.

It’s a way to help reach Jerome’s growing Latino population and boost the “go-on rate” — encouraging more students to continue their education beyond high school.

Students will receive services including academic support and tutoring during the school year and job shadowing and mentoring during the summer.

“Those are the kinds of things we’d like to do with all students, but are sometimes difficult with the limited number of counselors we have,” said Dale Layne, superintendent of the Jerome School District.

Latino parents in Jerome who have an incoming eighth-grader are invited to attend an information session Friday night. An application process for students interested in participating in the project hasn’t been determined yet.

And the job search for a program coordinator — who must be bilingual and bicultural — will begin this week, said Yolanda Bisbee, UI’s chief diversity officer.

The idea for the Jerome project came after UI President Chuck Staben put together a Latino advisory council.

“They had been looking at go-on rates and the impact of barriers to Latino students to go on to college,” Bisbee said.

It’s a big topic for Idaho. The Idaho Board of Education’s “Complete College Idaho” plan aims for 60 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds to have a post-secondary degree or certificate by 2020.

But the college go-on rate has remained fairly stagnant, hovering around 50 percent of graduates continuing their education within a year of finishing high school.

UI’s advisory council decided to apply for funding with the aim of helping Latino youth gain exposure to college options at a younger age, and to incorporate the community and families, Bisbee said.

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The council received a one-year $75,000 award from the Vandal Ideas Project.

It’s enough funding for the project’s first year, but organizers hope to continue the effort for at least three years in order to follow the first cohort of students through 10th grade.

UI officials traveled around the state — to communities such as Idaho Falls, Jerome, Nampa and Caldwell — and engaged in discussions in Spanish with parents about helping students consider going on to college.

The university decided on Jerome as the project site. “The parents there were very engaged and involved,” Bisbee said.

Parents of the 40 participating students will be involved throughout the project, she said, “so they understand what their students are learning to be college ready.”

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