Juntos students explore college options


Sponsored by OSU

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Visiting OSU last spring are Juntos members from left Saul Jimenez, Bryan Bueno, Erick Olivas, Scott Sanchez, Ingrid Sanchez, Analy Diaz, Laura Diaz and Laura Martinez.The Juntos Program, sponsored by Oregon State University, is in its second year of encouraging local Latino students to go to college.

“In our first group, with had three families, and now we have 62 members,” said Jennifer Oppenlander, OSU Open Campus coordinator for Jefferson County.

In the Juntos Program, both students and their families attend classes to learn about requirements for graduation, going to college, and how families can support their students. Dinner and childcare for younger brothers and sisters is provided to make it easier for families to attend.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Juntos group poses during their fall visit to Oregon State University.“Now, it’s for Latino families, and we have done one session for English-speaking students who will be the first generation of their families to go to college,” said Ana Gomez, education program assistant for Open Campus.

New this year is an after-school Juntos Club to help kids who have been through the Juntos program stay on track.

The club has formed committees to plan events, research scholarships, and encourage academic success, and the club members help and support each other.

“They have elected a president, vice president and secretary for the club, who attend conferences and leadership opportunities. The members go to summer camps, and we do workshops for them here,” Gomez said.

Every year, they make at least two campus visits to the University of Oregon and OSU, and additional summer camps are held at OSU. A few students are interested in Portland State University, so they are also trying to arrange a trip there.

“The best motivation is coming from the families. They all cheer each other on and are encouraging,” Gomez said.

Another development has been that parents who have graduated from the Juntos Program are helping the next group of families.

“They do the dinners, provide day care for younger kids, and eventually will help us oversee the club,” Oppenlander said.

“And two parents have been trained to help teach the sessions,” Gomez added.

The Juntos Program has provided advantages for parents as well as students. “Two mothers in the group have new jobs this year due to connections they made. One works for the school district and one works for the Latino Community Association, a new group connecting Latinos with services in Madras,” Gomez said.

Central Oregon Community College offers scholarships for local job skills classes, and 11 adult and student members of the Juntos Program are taking them.

“We were seeing students with the potential to work in the community, but there was a gap between their skills and what employers wanted. Now we have students and parents side by side in the job skills classes,” Gomez said.

In January, Oppenlander said they will start offering a Juntos Program in Culver, which the school is very excited about.

“Statistics show if students haven’t talked about college by the fifth grade, there is not as much success of them going,” Oppenlander said, adding, “And one out of two students from rural areas are dropping out of college because the first year is tough.”

To help the students be successful once they're in college, the two ladies continue to offer support.

“We have four or five students in college now at COCC, and we’re their new moms, texting them all the time with advice and encouragement. We also help them make connections with tutors,” Oppenlander said.