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Building a Sense of Belonging

Hispanic Student College Institute inspires success and persistence on college path

Posted in: Admissions, Hispanic Initiatives, University

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Latinx high school students and their college mentors at the summer 2021 Hispanic Student College Institute.

As a high school junior, William G. Dominguez-Barrios wondered not only if he belonged in college, but if so, how he would get there. That changed after attending the first Hispanic Student College Institute on the Montclair State campus, an experience that inspired confidence that a higher education was achievable.

Five summers later, as he begins his senior year as a double major in Medical Humanities and Psychology, Dominguez-Barrios is sharing his experiences as a mentor to Latinx students discovering their own path to college.

“I have so many goals and so many things to live up to,” Dominguez-Barrios says. “I tell myself, ‘You have to finish, it’s going to get hard, but nothing’s impossible.’”

The encouragement is at the heart of the Hispanic Student College Institute, a program that emphasizes the University’s commitment to Latinx students and their families in increasing access to college, and achieving academic and career success.

Hispanic Student College Institute is supported by State Farm Insurance. In addition, the program recently received additional federal dollars for coronavirus relief due to the University’s designation as a Minority Serving and Hispanic-Serving Institution. The magazine, Hispanic Outlook on Education, has listed Montclair State among the Top 100 Colleges for Hispanics for the past 18 years. The U.S. Education Trust describes Montclair State as a “Top Gap Closer” for increasing graduation rates for minority students.

This summer, with the University following strict COVID-19 protocols, including that students be fully vaccinated, about 70 Hispanic high school students attended the three-day program July 26-July 28, many who will be the first in their families to go to college. Students lived on campus, attending sessions on college planning, essay writing, financial aid and choosing a major. A full day of separate workshops were offered for the parents and extended family members.

At networking events, students met professional and academic mentors. The peer mentors aspect of the program (many like Dominguez-Barrios also attended while in high school) is among the most popular of the Institute. The peer mentors note the ongoing support once at Montclair State helped them reach their personal, educational and professional goals.

“We want to provide as much information as possible for these students to be successful and to approach the college application process from a better position,” says Katia Paz Goldfarb, associate provost for Hispanic Initiatives and International Programs. “At the same time, we want them to see themselves belonging on campus.”

Close view of student wearing HSCI face mask
Discovering a path to college is at the heart of the Hispanic Student College Institute.
Foreshortened view of HSCI students taking notes at an informatoin session
Students live on campus, where they attend classes on college planning.
Speaker standing in front of a group of HSCI students
Keynote speaker Gian Paul Gonzalez ’07 urged the students to be “all in” and take personal responsibility for their success.

Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren. Photos by Staff Photographer Mike Peters. Video by Staff Videographer Christo Apostolou.