HOLA and Big Brothers Big Sisters Reach Out to Latino Youth

(May 18, 2012) Armstrong Atlantic State University's Hispanic Outreach and Leadership at Armstrong (HOLA) program partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Coastal Empire to implement Caminos Al Éxito, translated to mean “Road to Success.”

Camino Al Éxito is a three-year demonstration project of the Georgia Association of Big Brothers Big Sisters (GABBBS) to help keep Savannah's Latino students in school and guide them towards college. The program began in Fall 2011 and is funded by The Goizueta Foundation.

Tatiana Cabral Smith, coordinator of Caminos Al Éxito, explained how the program works. “We match caring adults with Latino children who need a positive role model. Latino drop out rates are higher than those of other race groups. It is important for the community to have outreach programs for younger Latinos because most risky behavior and ideas about dropping out start at a young age,” she said.

As part of the program, Camino Al Éxito “Littles,” who range in age from 11 to 14, met up with their “Bigs” for a tour of Armstong's campus on March 30, 2012. Bigs are volunteers from the community who include college students, parents, professionals and retirees. The friendships that ensue are beneficial to both Bigs and Littles.

“One of the values of the HOLA program is to instill civic responsibility in Armstrong students by engaging them in community service and advocacy, which enriches their personal and social development. HOLA students inspire and mentor children in Camino Al Éxito, and most importantly, they fill the example-gap that kids may have at home,” HOLA director Melody Rodriguez said.

The visit also served as the backdrop for a GABBBS promotional video (above) about Camino Al Éxito. The video was shown to the Nationwide Hispanic Advisory Council meeting and was also submitted to the national Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Should the promotion succeed, Camino Al Éxito could be implemented on a national scale.

“Camino Al Éxito has greatly benefited from partnering with HOLA,” Smith said. “Melody Rodriguez has been instrumental in telling the students about us and giving us the opportunity to share the importance of the program. And the HOLA students are great mentors to the children in our program. Since they are college students, they can share their firsthand experience about everything from preparing for college to making good grades once enrolled.”

This is not the first time that Armstrong and HOLA have worked with The Goizueta Foundation to increase Latino outreach. In May 2011, the foundation awarded Armstrong an $870,000 grant to continue to support a comprehensive Latino outreach, recruitment, progression and graduation initiative on campus. This was the third grant awarded to Armstrong by The Goizueta Foundation—previous grants were awarded in 2003 and 2006—bringing the total support from the foundation to advance Hispanic/Latino education at Armstrong to $1,974,205.