Hispanic Alliance, Eastern Connecticut State University sign agreement
Willimantic — Eastern Connecticut State University and the Hispanic Alliance of Southeastern Connecticut formalized a partnership Monday to provide opportunities and scholarships to Latino students from the region.
Hispanic Alliance and university representatives gathered at the university to sign an agreement, which Claudio Melendez-Cooper, executive director of the Hispanic Alliance, hopes will be a model for other educational institutions and organizations across the country.
"We are honored to be here," said Melendez-Cooper. "We are honored to support our students. We are honored that our work is recognized and expanded upon by institutions such as Eastern."
University President Elsa Núñez called the new partnership with the New London-based organization, which has been in existence for 22 years and has awarded more than 300 scholarships, a "big deal."
"Dozens and dozens of young people have benefited from your work," Núñez said. "We could not be more delighted to be in this partnership."
The partnership calls for Eastern Connecticut State University to match $2,500 annual scholarships granted by the Hispanic Alliance to Eastern student recipients. The scholarships are given on an annual basis, though students will have to reapply each year, according to the organization.
Melendez-Cooper said he expects the program will benefit five or six students in the initial year, and then build momentum and grow. William Salka, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said there is no limit to the number of students for which Eastern Connecticut State University will match Hispanic Alliance scholarships.
David Galvez, an Eastern student from New London who is the first generation in his family to go to college, received a call during finals week that he was being awarded the scholarship for next year. Galvez, who is double majoring in accounting and music, said he needed the funding to be able to attend school next year.
"I know everyone's experienced tough times because of COVID, so it's just amazing," he said. "It's a blessing. Thank you so much to everyone that's been a part of the process."
Melendez-Cooper spoke about lost generations of students who thought college was unattainable because they could not cover the costs.
He said that the scholarship will not only directly help high school students, but also will help middle school and elementary school students see that there is an opportunity for them to attain a very good, four-year education, with the vast majority of tuition covered.
The partnership also calls for college preparation events in New London and for Eastern Connecticut State University to host on campus Latina high school students from the Hispanic Alliance's BRILLA program, which is a one-week summer leadership course for high school juniors.
Salka said Eastern has always prided itself on providing a liberal arts education to students who may not otherwise have access to one.
"This mission is particularly focused on historically underserved populations, such as those served by the Hispanic Alliance, and that's why this new partnership is so important to us here at Eastern," he said.
According to a recent survey of 500 institution, Eastern was ranked first in retention and graduation rates for Hispanic students and eighth for Black students.
Núñez said Eastern has also partnered with TheDream.US foundation, which funds education costs forDeferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students, and they have a 98% graduation rate.