Brown: supporting Latinos strengthens our communities

By The Mercury

K-State has shown how meeting the needs of Latinos can make a group stronger, said Sarita Brown, president and co-founder of Excelencia in Education, during a keynote address at Kansas State University’s Semillas de Excelencia Learning Communities Banquet and Awards on Wednesday.

“Latinos are a tremendous asset to Kansas and to America, and by stepping up to meet the needs of Latino students in thoughtful, focused, and intentional ways, we can ensure our nation’s strength and success for the future,” Brown said.

She said K-State has been “a shining example of how an institution can make great progress at promoting success for Latino students by seeking them out, understanding them, and supporting them through graduation and beyond” Doing so is not only good for the students and the institution, but also for the communities those students go on to serve, she said.

April Mason, provost of K-State, said Brown is “one of the most distinguished and well-regarded thought leaders in advancing educational opportunities for diverse and multicultural students.”

A national non-profit organization, Excelencia in Education seeks to increase college success for Latinos.

Excelencia in Education’s Growing What Works initiative began in 2009 with support from the Walmart Foundation followed by the Kresge Foundation, issuing grants named SEMILLAS (Seeding Educational Models that Impact and Leverage Latino Academic Success) — Spanish for “seeds” — to support the replication of successful evidence-based practices at campuses focused on Latino student success.

K-State received one of the first SEMILLAS grants to create the Semillas de Excelencia Learning Communities program, which expanded university programs to recruit Hispanic and Latino students.

Under the program, K-State has recorded an increase in Hispanic and Latino students every year. For spring 2013, there are 1,201 students on campus who identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino — an increase of 60 students from the 2012 spring semester.

Excelencia in Education has recognized other K-State programs for increasing success for Latino students.

The school’s Developing Scholars program earned national recognition as a 2009 Example of Excelencia by demonstrating how to make a major impact on Latino graduations in the biomedical sciences.  The program resulted in a 93 percent graduation rate among these students. 

Also, the university’s Bilingual/Bicultural Education Students Interacting to Obtain Success, or BESITOS, program earned national recognition as a 2012 Example of Excelencia.  Through this program, K-State recruits bilingual and bicultural education students, supports them through completion of a teacher preparation program, and mentors them to become teachers ready to address the needs of diverse students in their own communities.

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