According to the 2012 US Census, Delaware County has a Hispanic and Latino population of 4,167, and OWU’s VIVA organization is working to engage them.
Latino and Latin American Space for Enrichment and Research (LASER) was started in 2009 by Dr. Frederick Aldama, professor of English and Director of Latin American studies at Ohio State University.
This program matches high school students from the Columbus area with OSU students in the hopes of helping Latino and Latina students transition from high school and into college.
LASER has officially founded a chapter at Ohio Wesleyan this spring, with the help of VIVA, the Latin American club on campus.
During Aldama’s visit to OWU last year, VIVA decided to bring LASER closer to home and they have been working since the fall to get the program up and running.
Freshman Joycelyn Munoz is the only current mentor with a mentee in the program.
Seniors Hazel Barrera and Peter Reveles have been serving as ambassadors for the program this semester by reaching out to high school students, as well as keeping in touch with mentors.
“For a while now, I had been thinking about how to get ¡VIVA! Latinoamerica more involved in community service besides translating at Parent/Teacher Conferences at Woodward Elementary School and Willis Intermediate School,” Barrera said.
“When we heard about LASER at OSU from a speaker we brought in to present on Latinos in the media, we decided to take the opportunity to start a mentoring program for Latino students.”
Barrera said the students meet twice a week at OWU, “in order to get a sense of the college life.”
They work together for two hours during which the mentor helps the student with homework, FAFSA, college applications “and many other different needs that the student may have.”
According to Barrera, some of the challenges for this new program include trying to find transportation and a suitable time to meet with the administration at Hayes High School.
Additionally, she said finding mentees for the current mentors in the program has also turned out to be a challenge.
Freshman Micheal Mora Brenes will be the ambassador for the LASER/VIVA program next year and should be contacted if anyone is interested in being a part of the program.
“We (VIVA) hope to have more high school students interested, and have a bigger program by next fall,” Barrera said.
“While we look forward to a professional life after graduation in May, we wish to leave this as part of our legacy.”