Milca Jarquin always wanted to go to college, but she wasn’t sure how she would get there.
Through CALS’ Juntos program, Jarquin learned how to fill out financial aid forms to get the resources she needed to realize her college dream. Today, she’s a junior studying mechanical engineering at NC State, in hopes of one day creating better prosthetics and bionics for people who need them.
“Juntos overall served as a resource to help my family understand the requirements for college,” Jarquin said. “And it helped make the transition from high school to college easier.”
Juntos – Spanish for “together” – reaches out to Latino parents and students in 8th through 12th grade as they learn to navigate the school system, increase high school graduation rates and prepare for college.
The 9-year-old program operates under the leadership of Dr. Andrew Behnke, Cintia Aguilar, and Diana Urieta of NC State’s Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences. It serves more than 600 young people and parents in multiple counties in North Carolina and has even spread to six states.
The program has earned national recognition because studies show that it works: Juntos students report that their grades go up, they feel a greater sense of belonging and they are absent less often from school. Not only that, 87 percent say with confidence that they’ll continue with education after graduating high school.
That’s remarkable, given that the vast majority – 98 percent – have parents who didn’t go to college.
Juntos helps unify schools, families and communities to promote access to higher education. The program starts with a series of workshops that brings students and parents together to practice strategies and gain resources that will help them reach their academic goals.
After the workshops, students participate in other aspects of Juntos: 4-H clubs focused on academics, tutoring, life-skill development and community service; one-on-one success coaching and mentoring; and educational summer programs.
One of those programs, Juntos Academy, gives students the chance to spend a week learning and living the college experience at NC State. It was Jarquin’s favorite part of Juntos, and one reason she serves with the program at NC State.
“It’s a great feeling to give back, because Juntos has been like a family,” Jarquin said. “We are all connected through our roots, and together we share a common goal: higher education.”