$10,000 Comcast Grant Supports College Preparation Program


Photo Caption: Escalera participant, Jackelin Diaz (Right), meets with AmeriCorps Member Irma Ramirez to discuss financial aid opportunities for college. 

By Rachel Lopez

The Comcast Foundation awarded the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan a $10,000 grant to support its youth leadership and college preparation programming for prospective first-generation college students.

Supporting Our Leaders (SOL), the Hispanic Center’s youth leadership program, provides enhanced academic and social support to high school students as they prepare for post-secondary success through college preparation, leadership development and workplace readiness activities.

Each year SOL serves over 400 youth within its 12 different programs. This grant supports the “Escalera: Taking Steps to Success” program designed by National Council of La Raza, the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. The program’s objectives are to promote economic mobility for Latino youth by increasing educational attainment, career planning, and access to information about professional careers.

The Hispanic Center used the funds from this grant to purchase a new computer lab, charging station, and classroom projector. Students learn how to use computers in a professional setting, which will include: building a resume, exploring career pathways, searching for jobs and applying to college.

“Many of our students have limited internet access at home which inhibits their ability to pursue post-secondary opportunities” says Kelsey Schoenborn, Program Coordinator and Youth Advocate at the Hispanic Center. “Applying for college, scholarships, or employment opportunities can become even more daunting due to this digital divide. This grant will lessen this burden and make post-secondary options more attainable.”

Jackelin Diaz, a senior at Union High School, said she joined the Escalera Program in order to “get help applying to college and to learn new skills.” She remarks that the new computers are “way faster” which enables her to complete her homework, research, and apply for scholarships much quicker than at home. A prospective first generation college student, Jackelin has already applied to six different colleges and plans to pursue a degree in nursing next fall.

This grant from the Comcast Foundation is in recognition of Comcast’s commitment to the communities where its customers and employees live and work. Since its founding in 1999, the Comcast Foundation has distributed more than $163 million in cash support of programs implemented locally in Comcast communities.

“Technology aptitude and Internet access are crucial for school and workplace success,” stated Rob Ponto, public relations manager for Comcast in Michigan. “We are happy to support the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan and assist in the development of these important skills in its youth members – many of whom would not have this chance if it were not for the Escalera: Taking Steps to Success program.”

The Escalera Program will be accepting applications for the new cohort in January 2016. Eligibility requirements include:

  • Live in Kent County
  • Be a Current Junior in High School
  • Motivated to succeed
  • Priority is given to low-income and prospective first generation college students

For more information about this program please contact Kelsey Schoenborn at kschoenborn@hispanic-center.org or 616-246-0575.

Rachel Lopez is the Director of Youth and Parent Services at the Hispanic Center. She currently resides in Wyoming, MI with her husband and twin daughters, Sofia and Isabella.