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Latino teens experience A&M-Commerce Listo Camp


By Brent Lyday

Commerce – Twenty seven Latino high school students recently got a taste of college life after participating in Texas A&M University-Commerce's Alumnos Listo!: A Summer Camp for Exploring College, Careers and Cultura. The project is available thanks to a five-year, $1.2 million Project Listo! grant, which prepares teachers to better serve English Language Learners (ELLs).

Students were recruited by their Spanish and ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers at Lakeview Centennial High School in Garland and Greenville High School, and are recent immigrants from Mexico and other Central American countries. Many struggle with academic language in English that is required in high school.

"We are extremely pleased with this first Alumnos Listo! Summer Camp," said Martha Foote, A&M-Commerce head and professor of curriculum and instruction. "The kids were amazing and interesting, and were interested in the information and activities geared toward helping them go to college."

The three day, two night camp was led by university faculty, staff and student and community volunteers, as well as teachers from Lakeview and Greenville High School to help serve as translators, camp counselors, session leaders and facilitators.

A welcoming dinner kicked off the camp at the Sam Rayburn Student Center where students were welcomed by Dr. Larry Lemanski, A&M-Commerce provost and vice president for academic affairs, Dr. Mary Hendrix, A&M-Commerce vice president for student access and success, and Dr. Brent Mangus, A&M-Commerce dean of the education and human services. Attorney Jose Luis Sanchez was the keynote speaker, sharing his inspiring story of starting as a migrant worker to owning a law firm in Longview, Texas, that specializes in assisting immigrants. Kimberly Herron, A&M-Commerce financial aid advisor, provided details of financial aid resources.

Throughout the camp, the students engaged in an online assessment of their career-related interests, were given speeches by Latino career role models about overcoming obstacles, participated in a mini-lesson on how to write college and scholarship application essays, and heard from multiple student leaders on campus.
Afternoons and evenings were devoted to a celebration of Latino and American/Texan culture. The students learned dance steps of the salsa, cumbia, meringue and bachata, and enjoyed a pool party and game night.

The final luncheon celebrated the students and featured reflections of the camp and a slide show of the week's events. To view A&M-Commerce photos of the camp, visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/tamuc/sets/72157624529370891/.

"We are especially grateful to the many volunteers, especially Hispanic professionals who gave their time to share their stories with these high school students," Foote said. "To be able to hear testimonies from others who were relative newcomers to this country and how they had achieved success was truly inspirational."

A&M-Commerce plans to have another camp in 2011 as well as follow-up events at participating high schools.