By Christian Rosario / Editor-In-Chief
Juniors and seniors from Somerset and Hunterdon County high schools responded enthusiastically to evaluation forms from CRECER, a high school outreach program Raritan Valley Community College’s Orgullo Latino Club (OLC) hosted on March 20, 2014.
“I never thought about going to college in a serious manner, until now,” wrote Ale, a student from Bridgewater-Raritan High School. Many of the 133 students who attended the event responded similarly. “You can do anything if you put your mind to it,” wrote Jonathan Guallpa, a student from North Plainfield High School.
“I learned that even if you come from a bad home or you’ve been through some things, don’t let it stop you because there’s a lot of graduates that have been through worse and are doing great things for themselves,” wrote Sirena Rosario, who is also a student from North Plainfield High School.
CRECER, which stands for “Caring-Reaching-Educating-Connecting-Enriching-Reaping“ is a program that began in 1996 and discusses how most Latino students are not encouraged or motivated to seek a college education. High school participants took a tour of the campus, which included a laser show at the planetarium, and listened to information about RVCC and inspirational speeches about the importance of a college education.
Speakers who have been members of OLC included Karina Palacios, the current president of OLC; Nicole Perez, a former OLC senator who successfully ran for the RVCC student government senator position after being encouraged to do so; and Jose Salazar, a former OLC senator who is currently working as a First Year Academic Advisor at RVCC. The speakers talked about their personal struggles and how they overcame them to achieve success. Almost every CRECER participant marked “excellent” on their evaluation form for the speakers.
To close the event, students followed keynote speaker Joey Negrón as he talked about his life story, which involved hard work and dedication in the educational environment. Negrón is part of CoolSpeak, a youth engagement organization that motivates Latino, African American and Native American teens to continue their education in a “cool” way.
“When Negron was speaking, all the students were quiet. Hunterdon Central had to leave in the middle of it and students were clearly upset and questioned their counselors’ decision,” said Eva Fontanez, OLC’s advisor.
“As every year, the program received great reviews from students, and OLC members were very happy to have led a successful event. The club has already planned improvements for next year and is more than happy to continue hosting CRECER in future years,” said Fontanez.
OLC offers a CRECER scholarship to high school seniors who want to attend RVCC. The scholarship is funded through OLC fundraisers and donations. Those who wish to contribute to the CRECER scholarship may make checks payable to the RVCC Foundation and indicate that it goes to the CRECER scholarship
This article was edited on May 1, 2014.