BCC students Jorge Ivan Gomez Wei and Ari Lopez Wei brought an exciting college completion and student engagement initiative to Bergen Community College this winter of 2014, one which promises to boost Latino student success. The Wei Development Team supports the program with pro-bono technical assistance and BCC provides the venue for most workshops. College staff members Gene Calderón and Johanna Heule serve as advisors and the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI) is the program’s conceptual creator.
The Wei is a sustainable engagement team that empowers social and environmental justice communities. In this project, Ivan serves as Student Coordinator, Ari Lopez Wei is both project helper and cohort member and Kimi Wei handles public relations, logistics, translations and chief fruit salad maker.
Latino students need support to finish college
Statistics show that Latino students want and are in need of support to successfully complete their Associate’s Degrees (the degrees awarded by community colleges in the United States):
- Latinos comprise 33% of the overall student population of 34,000 BCC students* and
- Latinos have averaged about 25% of each graduating class in the past 5 years* but
- Only 14% of BCC Latino students complete Associate Degrees within a 3 year span (last tracked years 2009-20012)*;
- And this is slightly less than the overall Latino student community college completion rate for the state of New Jersey, where only 17.1% of Latino community college students graduate within a 3 year time span.
CLDP cohort members hope to develop as leaders in both academic and career paths; and as self and peer advocates become empowered to influence policies and situations that impact their present and future success. They are kicking off their futures by earning Associates Degrees. The 2013 cohort of BCC students is equally divided between men and women of Latino heritage. Most members are from low-income families, several are EOF students and they live in Bergen, Passaic and Hudson Counties. Program founders Ivan and Ari Wei share Colombian heritage.
About the CLDP @ BERGEN program
Under the guidance of Ivan and The Wei, students held 15 individual, interactive sessions with administrators of the school spread out between 4 nighttime workshops and an all day session on Sunday, Jan 19 at a beautiful space secured by one of the participants. The goal was to inspire exchange and mutual appreciation between school officials and Latino students, expose students to little known opportunities and life/academic support in their school … and to open students’ eyes to exciting career possibilities through hearing the experiences of administrators.
Various administrators remarked on how impressed they were with the students’ interest and respectful attention even when sessions lasted well into the night, after they had attended classes and even worked. An ice storm one evening didn’t prevent students from traveling up to one and a half hours by public transportation to attend sessions. One arrival that night – Herardi – came although he was recuperating from an operation on his hand.
Can you help participants get to the USHLI national convention?
As the inaugural CLDP @ BERGEN cohort, current participants will receive scholarships from USHLI to its national conference in February but must fundraise for travel to Chicago; two nights’ lodging; and to cover the costs of light meals for workshop sessions. Altogether, they need to raise $10,400 to cover expenses for 25 people.
If you can help these deserving students with a donation please contact Ivan by email, @ivanwei on Twitter, Facebook, @kimiwei or call 201-477-8711. We’ll send you our fundraising packet and information on how to make a tax-deductible donation to the program.
Learn more about this program
*Data provided by the Bergen Community College Research Center for Institutional Effectiveness