By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer
Roane State has received a grant to encourage Latinx students to enroll in the community college and help them succeed once they sign up for classes.
The $49,990 Student Engagement, Retention and Success Grant is from the Tennessee Board of Regents, and the project is titled “Bienvenidos a Roane State,” which is Spanish for Welcome to Roane State.
Roane State will form a partnership with the community organization Centro Hispano of East Tennessee to develop project plans and put them into action. The nonprofit provides a number of services and resources to assist the region’s Latinx residents.
College officials applauded the TBR grant announcement. “The grant and partnership will allow Roane State to examine our enrollment processes with a cultural lens, create college materials in Spanish, offer student mentors and much more as we strive to better serve our community,” College President Chris Whaley said.
“We’re excited about partnering with Centro Hispano to identify the most effective and welcoming ways to encourage Latinx students and their families to consider Roane State as their postsecondary education choice,” said Karen Brunner, the college’s vice president for institutional effectiveness, planning and student success initiatives.
The grant is intended to both increase the enrollment and boost the success rate of Latinx students.
Its efforts are directed toward present and prospective Latinx students throughout Roane State’s nine-county service area. There will be a particular emphasis on Loudon County, where nine percent of the residents – nearly 4,000 people – are Latinx.
With assistance from Centro Hispano, Roane State will develop outreach and marketing materials such as flyers, posters and social media videos that will be available in Spanish.
Also planned is the college’s sponsorship of an event in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month at one of the county’s two high schools to help Latinx students learn about Roane State.
“Centro Hispano is thrilled to partner with Roane State,” said Claudia Caballero, the nonprofit’s president and CEO. “The Latino population in East Tennessee is growing and Roane State is ahead of the game establishing relationships in the community and working to understand the nuances of our culture. We look forward to this project!”
The college intends to develop a mentorship program to guide Latinx students through their collegiate experiences and hire an interpreter to facilitate communications between students’ family members and the college’s success coaches, who answer questions ranging from financial aid options to where to park on campus.
In turn, those coaches will be trained to better understand Latinx culture, according to the grant application.
Grant funds will also be used to pay for 10 Roane State faculty and staff members to take a course in conversational Spanish to help them communicate with Spanish-speaking students and their families.
The TBR grant is for one year, but it’s expected it will benefit the college and Latinx students for years to come.