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Hope CommUnity Center visits Stetson

Hope CommUnity Center visitThe Stetson University Office of Admission recently hosted a non-traditional campus visit for five young women from the Hope CommUnity Center in Apopka, Fla.

“The purpose of the campus visit is to encourage and inspire these young people who are the children of migrant workers to continue their education after high school,” said Stetson alumnus Robert McIntosh ’77, who coordinated this campus visit. McIntosh serves on the Hope CommUnity Center’s board of directors and organized a similar field trip two years ago with a group of boys from the Center to visit Stetson.

“Our care for these students is a great representation of Stetson’s values at work,” said McIntosh. “I came here about two years ago with a group of young men from the Center. There was a soccer game that day and I think they were really excited just knowing that they could play at the college level. So having these students on campus today is great.”

The Hope CommUnity Center is a service learning community dedicated to the empowerment of Central Florida’s immigrant and working poor communities through education, advocacy and spiritual growth, according to their website (http://hcc-offm.org/). Accompanying the girls were College and Career Access coordinator Karen Moran, and AmeriCorps volunteer Catherine Cisneros.

“The students whom I work with are first generation, so allowing them to see a school like Stetson gives them motivation and sort of a dream to have a better future,” said Moran. “For the majority of our students, their parents have made it maybe through sixth grade, so for them it’s a huge accomplishment to graduate from high school. One of the things that I try not to do is show them schools that they’re going to fall in love with and then have no chance of attending. You really don’t want to set them up for failure if they apply, get accepted, and then find they can’t afford it.”

“All parents want is for their kids to do better and go to school to get an education,” stated Cisneros. “Parents understand the value of a college education when they don’t have it themselves. If the students find a school that they click with, they become more determined and motivated to get their grades up, or focus their energy on scholarships and applications. Once they’ve connected, they become involved in their own future. We work with these students in every step of the process and I think it helps greatly.”

Upon arrival, the group was greeted by admissions recruiter, Meghan Moist, who held an information session on Stetson scholarships, organizations to get involved with, and other information. From there, student ambassador Chessy Armijos, (pictured) led the group on a tour of the campus and ended in the Commons inside the Carlton Union Building for a complimentary lunch. The students’ emotions gradually changed from nervous and shy at the beginning of their visit to enthusiastic and determined as they listened to stories, experiences and the university’s history, as related by Armijos and McIntosh.

“The college access program really opened my eyes to higher education,” said 15-year-old Alexa. “I like that Stetson offers a lot of scholarship opportunities and the close-knit community feeling that the campus radiates. When I graduate and go to college, I want to study psychology because a psychologist once inspired me to let other kids know that there are people out there to help. I would either like to do something with counseling or go to grad school to get my master’s to become a psychologist.”

By Kim Charles