OSU program preparing Latino students for college celebrates its second year

May 16, 2013
Ninth-graders in OSU's Juntos program learned about preparing for college. (Phot
Ninth-graders in OSU's Juntos program learned about preparing for college. (Photo by Scott Sanchez.)

MADRAS, Ore. – Families in Madras are marking a promising second year of Juntos, a central Oregon after-school program that aims to prepare Latino high school students and their families for college.

Oregon State University's Open Campus spearheads Juntos ("together" in Spanish), working in partnership with Madras High School with the support of several other community organizations.

A free community carnival and information fair, sponsored by OSU and other community groups, is scheduled for 1-5:30 p.m. May 18 at Westside Elementary School in Madras. The event includes music and food, as well as lessons in folkloric dancing and cooking. Juntos students will run a booth promoting the program.  

Open Campus is an OSU initiative in which the university works with community colleges, K-12 schools, local government, regional economic development groups and other stakeholders in communities across the state to develop educational opportunities tailored to meet local needs.

OSU Open Campus instructors and Madras High School teachers facilitate free evening workshops in Spanish at Madras High School for six weeks starting each February. Weekly discussion topics range from making education a family goal to financing college. Ninth-graders and their parents participate. 

In the program's first year, four families attended. Participation jumped to 12 families this year. Juntos is unique because it invites involvement from the whole family, said Jennifer Oppenlander, program coordinator for Open Campus.  

"By attending Juntos together, the experience gives families a comfort level and makes them feel as if they have a support group," Oppenlander said.

Program participants are also active beyond after-school workshops. Juntos students promoted the program at an April 17 conference at the University of Oregon. Next, they will visit OSU June 1 to experience campus life in Corvallis. Also, an English-language version of the Juntos workshops started this year in Madras with four families attending.

Parent Ana Bueno joined the program last year with her son, Bryan Bueno. Ana Bueno graduated from college in Mexico and wants her son to pursue higher education, too.

"I wanted to introduce my son to college but didn't know how to do it," Ana Bueno said. "Juntos helped a lot because it gave us practical knowledge, tools and a lot of useful information."  

Ana Bueno now volunteers as a mentor for parents new to the program and helps spread the word about Juntos to her friends.  

Also on May 18, officials from the Mexican Consulate in Portland will visit Madras in the morning in a special visit to renew Mexican passports and consular identification documents for 160 people, Oppenlander said.

Representatives from Oregon State University, Central Oregon Community College and various community partners will recognize the second year of Juntos at another May 18 event, an invitation-only brunch in Madras.

The Jefferson County Open Campus Education Council and Central Oregon Community College support Open Campus's work with Juntos. The Latino Community Association also provides support of the program.

Plans are in the works to expand the Juntos program to Culver, Warm Springs and Redmond by next school year, Oppenlander said.

Author: Denise Ruttan