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The Transformative Impact of the Montclair Hispanic Student College Institute
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The Transformative Impact of the Montclair Hispanic Student College Institute

Dr. Katia Paz Goldfarb | November 2023


The Montclair Hispanic Student College Institute (HSCI) empowers Hispanic/Latino high school juniors and seniors with valuable knowledge, peer mentorship, and networking skills, fostering confidence and paving the way for college success and future careers, while also offering support and resources to their families.

 


For seven years, the Hispanic Student College Institute (HSCI) has provided a unique and highly interactive opportunity for 800 hundred high school rising juniors and seniors who self-identify as Hispanic/Latine. The main goal is to strengthen their knowledge about college transitioning, future academic success, and workforce opportunities. We are committed to increasing students’ confidence in navigating the college admissions process and ultimately enrolling at the college or university of their choice.

HSCI is entirely free to all participants. The program includes three-night housing, all four-day meals, and non-credit workshops/co-curricular activities. During the very packed days, we cover the application process, essay writing, college transition, Financial Aid, Major exploration, classroom experience, advocating for yourself, mental health, social life, career planning and resumé, and the importance of networking. We make sure to leave time for recreational activities and building social connections.  

One of the critical components, Peer Mentors, is the most highly appreciated by participants. We divide the participants into groups of around fifteen and assign two Peer Mentors who are current Latine students at Montclair. Some of them are HSCI alums. This incredible and committed group of college students meet multiple times before the start of the program to get in-depth training on working with minors, review responsibilities and expectations, and get to know each other. Peer mentors continue supporting participants and being a resource for families throughout the year.

These future scholars arrive and immediately start experiencing campus life by signing into their rooms and finding out who their roommates are. We continue with a celebratory lunch with family members. We had 250 grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, and siblings this year! We welcome all and share a taste of the following days. After saying their goodbyes, families are invited to stay for a series of workshops on financial aid, application and transition to college, and supporting your child with tracks in Spanish and English. The family component is essential mainly because many of our participants will be the first in their families to go to college. Families also need access to information and resources in order to best support their children, and younger siblings can start seeing themselves in college.

There are a lot of magical moments, but my favorite one is the Networking Event. The look on participants’ faces as they arrive, all dressed up, at the university’s conference center on the seventh floor, with spectacular views of New Jersey and the NYC skyline, is just perfect. This event aims to provide a safe space for the participants to practice and start building their networking skills with members of community organizations, university administrators, faculty and staff, corporate representatives, and alums. Participants experience a Major fair where they meet Department chairs and advisors. They also meet with student government and clubs and explore careers with professionals in finance, media, technology, and health. They get to meet Latine/bilingual faculty, staff, and professionals so they can see themselves in these positions and know that it is possible to achieve their dreams.

Family members shared the following feedback with us: 

The event was well organized. The mentors were fantastic. In three short days, I saw a newfound confidence in my daughter. I am forever grateful. She has gained so much confidence and feeling included and accepted was so important to her. Thank you for all your hard work. Mil gracias por apoyar a nuestros estudiantes. 

My son had an amazing time. He enjoyed the program and made great connections. I want to thank you for all your effort and for making it an unforgettable experience.

Mil gracias por su ayuda, esta experiencia fue excelente y enriquecedora para nuestra hija. Nos  gustó absolutamente todo, la logística que implementaron fue excelente y la información que nos aportaron fue de gran interés.

In participants’ words: 

I was a little nervous. I didn't know if I would like it. Was I going to make friends? I gave it a chance. Now, I just really wish it would last longer.

I like the networking the most as I got to build my confidence and get to ask questions one on one with professionals. It was interesting talking to people about the careers and their personal experiences. I feel very happy and I feel more confident.

This was the best program I’ve ever attended.

In general, it helped me develop more social skills and I learned more about college and financial aid. I enjoyed the experience a lot. It was amazing. I would love to go to Montclair and become a mentor.

I feel like a new person. I’ve gained so much confidence and new knowledge that I know will help me so much in the future.

At first, I thought this program would be a drag, however I appreciate every minute of it and I'm happy to leave with an answer I can say I am proud of, and with lots of knowledge. They taught us a lot of stuff that helped me have a clearer idea about going from high school to college. I was able to meet my amazing mentors who were always willing to continue helping us. 

I feel that the whole experience was definitely worth it and such a great opportunity to break out of my shell and learn new things. I LOVED IT AND DO NOT REGRET COMING! I was nervous but I'm leaving happy and truly proud to have been part of this year's HSCI 2023! 

At first it was scary not knowing anyone, but I made some great friends that I already miss. And my mentors were some of the best people I've ever met.

In sum, this program intentionally serves our future Latine students, their families, and communities. It reflects the commitment and work that the Office of Hispanic Initiatives and Montclair State University are doing as a Hispanic Serving Institution. 

About the author:

Dr. Katia Paz Goldfarb, inaugural Associate Provost for Hispanic Initiatives and International Programs Montclair State University. Professor/Founding Chair Family Science & Human Development. Fellow-NCFR. Fellow Academia de Liderazgo-HACU. Research: immigrant/transnational families, family sustainability, and HSIs. PI, NSF B&B Conference: The Long-Term Impact of COVID 19 on Latino Communities-Tri-State Area. Media: Univision/Telemundo/ABC/NBC/CBS News.