Latinx students in Eagle County face unique challenges on their path to college |

Latinx students in Eagle County face unique challenges on their path to college

Local Latino students continue the fight for a college education despite facing challenges along the way.
Unsplash photo

This story has been translated from the original Spanish version.

May 1 has traditionally been known as National College Decision Day, or the day students who are in their final year of high school and have applied to college or university must send their deposit to secure a seat in a classroom for classes in the fall.

However this year, with the coronavirus pandemic, many universities across the United States have extended this deadline to June 1.

Estefania Godoy, who is in her last year at Battle Mountain High School, decided on the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs on April 24, where she will study digital innovation and business.

Godoy, who came to the United States 15 years ago from Jalisco, Mexico, will be the first in her family to attend college.

“Personally, it is a great achievement. I don’t really feel that I am only going to university for myself, I feel that I am also doing it for my parents who have tried very hard to get me a good education, and to show my sisters that they may have someone to show them the right way,” she said.

According to a USA Today article, the number of Hispanics enrolled in universities in the United States increased from 3.17 million in 2016 to 3.27 million in 2017 — one of only two demographic groups that had such a sizeable jump.

Jim Thompson, a college counselor and professional adviser for Eagle County Schools, said that in a self-reporting by Latino students from local high schools, more than 50% said they applied to at least one university or college in 2019.

One of these students is Ximena Serna, who will graduate from Eagle Valley High School this year and will attend Colorado Mesa University on a full scholarship from the Guardian Scholars, a nonprofit that started in Eagle County.

“I was really excited when they gave me the news that I earned it because it covers everything and is a great help to my parents,” Serna said. “It is a great relief for them because they don’t have to stress as much about how they are going to pay for my education and they can focus more on my younger siblings.”

In addition to offering financial aid, the Guardian Scholars program offers interpersonal, emotional and professional support to its students, who are mostly Latino, to help them succeed in their university studies.

According to Julie Papa Keith, executive director of the program, the percentage of students who receive this scholarship and graduate from college in four years is 85%. The national graduation rate for first-generation and low-income students is 11%.

Another local organization that is helping first-generation students is My Future Pathways, which, modeled on the Guardian Scholars, offers full support to its participants.

This year, My Future Pathways awarded 16 partial scholarships to students who choose to study at Colorado Mountain College, according to Bratzo Horruitiner, the organization’s executive director.

“I don’t necessarily work with a specific demographic, but rather with a need. Where is the need, there we try to satisfy it and whatever the color,” Horruitiner said. “But realistically, the need is more Latin, now. We are with 97%, 95% Latinos.”

Thompson has also noted a challenge for the students he works with in the early college high school program, which helps students complete two years of college or 60 credits while still in high school.

“Most students who participate in early college high school also work part-time, some significantly,” Thompson said. “But it can be very challenging, particularly for working students, to balance homework and earn money, in many cases not just for themselves but for their families.”

However, for Godoy’s mother, Yolanda Godoy, these obstacles are overcome by her daughter’s achievements.

“Until now I haven’t looked at obstacles because she has achieved her goals with her effort. As immigrant parents, the only thing we try to advise our children is to study so that they have the opportunities that one did not have in their country,” Yolanda Godoy said.

Both students say they are excited for fall to begin their college studies. Estefania leaves future generations of the Latino community with an important message:

“Especially for those who are in similar situations, I would say yes, it does cost almost twice as much work to get to the same place as your colleagues and although sometimes you feel that others are given the easier things, in the end when you see the achievements you will see that it was all worth it,” she said.

Vail Daily Spanish reporter Julio Garcia Jimenez can be contacted by sending an email to Follow him on Instagram @juliooomar.

Support Local Journalism