Prime Time Living - Page 18 - Small commitment. Huge impact

Prime Time Living
- Page 18
Small commitment. Huge impact
¡Adelante Latina! makes a difference

By Margit B. Weisgal, Contributing Writer

It’s very gratifying when a vision becomes a reality. And the reality of ¡Adelante Latina! fulfills its promise.

After 30 years, Leonor Blum, an Argentine immigrant, retired as Professor Emerita in history and political science at Notre Dame of Maryland University. “Throughout the years teaching, I saw how Latinas in my classes struggled.

They weren’t well-prepared and often had to deal with financial problems or family issues. As a Latina myself, it was something to which I was particularly sensitive. That’s why I wanted to create something that would help Latinas before they got to college, so they would have the tools to succeed once they were accepted,” says Blum.

Latina students have challenges from the start. Nationally, fewer than half of Latina high school graduates go on to college. The parents, who come from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras or Ecuador, speak only Spanish, have little education themselves, often work more than one job and, in some cases, are undocumented. With their limited perspective, they don’t grasp how much an education – particularly a college education – can make a difference in their children’s lives and their futures. They depend on their daughters to be translators, sometimes pulling them out of school for various appointments, ignoring the disruption to learning.

With those difficulties in mind, Blum designed a solution and, today, oversees the results. “¡Adelante Latina! ( ) is a free, afterschool academic enrichment and college preparatory program for promising Latina girls attending Baltimore City high schools.

An active, viable program, it not only helps young Latinas get accepted into colleges, it also arms them with the tools and support that are so necessary.

The program requires a three-year commitment and extends from sophomore through senior year. Then, after the students complete the three-year program, each receives a scholarship of $3,000, paid directly to the college or university they’ll attend.

Blum started by contacting guidance counselors at Baltimore City high schools, asking them to identify freshman who could benefit from her organization. She then met with each student and her family, discussing how the program would enhance the girl’s ability to do well and, even, thrive.

Commitment to complete the program had to be from both parents and students. After lining up paid instructors, private volunteer tutors and monetary support, ¡Adelante Latina! started with its first cohort of sophomores in 2013. The original cohort had 12 sophomore students who met twice a week after school for two hours. Today, all three grades are populated.

The first of two weekly sessions focuses on grade-appropriate tutoring in subjects such as reading, writing, vocabulary skills and SAT preparation. “¡Adelante Latina! students come from households where Spanish is spoken and are therefore at a disadvantage when taking standardized college placement tests that evaluate reading comprehension and vocabulary skills.”

At the second session, each participant meets with a private volunteer tutor/mentor to work on specific assignments, someone who also provides some emotional support and, often, friendship.

Now in its sixth year, the program has a steady stream of participants in each cohort and added STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) studies to its curriculum. Guidance counselors bring freshman Latinas together where Blum presents details and talks about ¡Adelante Latina! They are drawn from Western High School, Baltimore Polytechnic, City College and Digital Harbor High School, starting as sophomores and going on to graduation, with 90% completing all three years. The students maintain, on average, a 3.5 GPA. “We keep them involved throughout the calendar year, not just during the academic year,” says Blum. “One option is to spend a week living on the Notre Dame of Maryland campus at a College Boot Camp. My former students and other professors speak and visit. We also take them on tours of college campuses, so they get to ‘see’ their future.”

During the summer months, the students get paid internships in a variety of fields. Past internships came from Centro Sol of Johns Hopkins University (Center for Health and Opportunity for Latinos), LawLinks (of the Citizen Law Related Education Program), YouthWorks

Volunteer, continued on page 25