RALEIGH, N.C. – At a sold-out luncheon on the Meredith College campus Sept. 28, a new organization was launched to help smooth the path to college for Latino students in North Carolina.
Members of Hermanas Latina each will donate $150 a year to the Tomorrow Fund for Hispanic Students, a fund at the Triangle Community Foundation that in its first grant cycle this year awarded $39,000 to help young Latinos attend college.
“Our mission is a lofty one,” says Diane Evia-Lanevi, founder of the Tomorrow Fund and a founding member of Hermanas Latina. “We’re working to change the playing field in North Carolina for Latino students from low-income families. Every child is our child and deserves an opportunity in life.”
The launch of the new effort was praised by keynote-speaker Teresa Rivero, who overseas education investments in the southeast for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
With half of Latinos dropping out of high school and only 12 percent graduating from college, Latino youth are at serious risk, says Rivero, particularly now that the economy has evolved to require higher-skills among workers.
“As Latinos, we are underprepared for the future,” she says. “Unless we prepare, we’ll fall farther and farther behind. We shouldn’t leave graduating from high school and going to college up to luck.”
As the child of Cuban immigrants, Rivero’s family struggled to put her through college and she considers herself lucky to have received grants and scholarships to make graduation possible.
The Tomorrow Fund and Hermanas Latina are innovative steps in making college a reality for the young Hispanics of today, she says.
“We must ensure that the next generation is secure and that that generation of young leaders have access to a quality education,” says Rivero. “We need to continue to be a strong voice in demanding a strong education for all. We need to remember the financial barriers that prevent Latinos from going to college. We need to remove those barriers.”
Helping ensure the success of future Hispanic students honors the sacrifice many families made in coming to the U.S., she says.
“So many of our families came to this country for the opportunity it affords us and we have the obligation to preserve that opportunity for future generations,” says Rivero.
Grants from the Tomorrow fund are awarded to North Carolina colleges and universities, which use the money to help students with college expenses, whether through scholarships or through help purchasing textbooks, computers or other necessities.
The first round of grants benefited students like Carla Mena, who came to the U.S. at age 11 and now is a junior at Meredith College majoring in biology.
Through the Tomorrow Fund grant, Meredith was able to provide the financial assistance Mena needed to stay in school, a boost she hopes can be extended to other young Latinos with college aspirations.
“A lot of these students know what they want to do and are very well educated, but because of a simple nine-digit number, they can’t do it,” she says. “Because of the Tomorrow Fund, I’m here and I can help others. I want to make sure that everyone has the opportunities I got.”
In addition to donating to the Tomorrow Fund, members of the Hermanas Latina giving circle members will have the opportunity to serve as a mentor, either to one of the student members of the circle, or to one of the students benefiting from a Tomorrow Fund grant.
Initially, the mentoring program will be conducted in partnership with Meredith, and mentors can choose a form of communication that best suits their style and schedule, says Angie Intriago, chair of Hermanas Latina.
By providing both financial and social support, the new giving circle aims to increase the chances that the next generation will have the means not only to attend, but to complete their college careers.
“College isn’t an easy thing,” says Intriago, “But it’s completely worth it.”