Latino summit coming to Akron

By Grant Morgan, Writer

The University of Akron will host the Ohio Latino Education Summit for the first time on March 6, 2015. The event, usually held at other schools such as The Ohio State University or Wright State University, is an honor for UA.

The summit brings students, educators and community leaders together who offer different ideas for the same goal: increasing the educational prosperity of Latino students.

Many prominent figures will attend in 2015, including Ohio State Senators Charleta B. Tavares, Peggy Lehner, Tom Sawyer and Representative Dan Ramos.

There are around 500 Latino students on UA’s campus, both international and domestic. Other Northeast Ohio areas like Youngstown, Cleveland, Lorain and parts of Toledo have large Latino populations.

John Turner, associate director of UA’s multicultural center, says that there are two factors that make educational prosperity difficult for the Latino Community: culture and economics.

“We [Latinos] have very tight-knit families. If some dramatic event happens to one person in that family, usually that causes a student to return home and not be able to complete [their higher education],” Turner said.

There is also a language barrier. In secondary school, some Latino students stay in English Language Learners programs that only teach in Spanish. This makes for a difficult transition to an English speaking college.

Some simply cannot afford higher education. When these students have immigration issues, it becomes even more difficult.

“After they graduate from high school, they literally have nowhere else to go,” Turner said.

There is good news, however. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a memorandum approved by the Obama administration, helps students in these situations gain a four-year degree.

Though UA has multiple outlets to assist minority students, it is just beginning to build a framework for Latino students. UA’s Student Success Center and Office of Multicultural Development offer specialized advising and mentoring. The Multicultural Center provides co-curricular programs. Lee Gill, associate vice president of Inclusion and Equity, advocates for Latino students on the diversity council also.

“Bringing the [Ohio] Latino Education Summit here is just taking it to the next level. It is going to be a learning experience for us to see best practices of other campuses. The next step will be to create a framework in academics to assist those [Latino] students,” Turner said.

Proposals are now being accepted for the 2015 summit. Those interested in presenting can visit the 2015 Ohio Latino Education Summit’s website.