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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Latina helps at-risk kids into college

Former BYU student changes teens' lives
By Lisa Schencker, The Salt Lake Tribune, 05/03/2010

As a sophomore in high school, Dayan Bernal didn't know how to get into college.

She didn't know the difference between honors and Advanced Placement classes. She didn't know she had to take the ACT. Her English was only basic after moving to the U.S. from Bolivia.

But she navigated her way to college despite all that -- and she took 17 other struggling Latino students along with her.

For years, the best minds in education have pondered how to get more Latino students to attend college. Bernal, now 24, may have found an answer. For her Brigham Young University honors thesis in 2007, Bernal designed and taught a college preparation class for Latino sophomores at Provo High School. Now, three years later, 17 of her 25 Provo High students are in college, and Bernal hopes to start a nonprofit to expand the program.

"I was able to relate to them and tell them it was possible," said Bernal, who recently graduated from BYU. "I shared my personal story and told them I could see so much potential in them."

Bernal said she knew from the beginning she wanted her honors thesis to focus on low college enrollment rates among Latino students because of her own experiences. Only 5.4 percent of Utah public college and university students are Latino, even though they comprise more than 11 percent of Utah's population. Latinos are underrepresented in higher education for a number of reasons, including financial challenges, language barriers and parents who are sometimes unfamiliar with the education system, among other things.

"After I researched that, I said, 'I don't want to write a paper. I want to make a change in my community,'" Bernal said.

For a semester, Bernal worked with the students during and after school. She invited Latino speakers -- professionals and other BYU students -- to show the teens what was possible. She taught students about careers, degrees and financial aid. She invited speakers to talk about college entrance exams, services and programs at Provo High, and she took her students on tours of college campuses.

At the end of the class, she asked them to prepare timelines outlining their junior and senior years.

Mostly, she tried to inspire them.

"Once they realize they can get out of poverty with education, they realize it's possible to change their life and life of their families," Bernal said.

Gary Guanuna, one of Bernal's former students, said he always wanted to go to college but wasn't sure if he could really do it until Bernal's class. By his sophomore year in high school, some of his friends were drop outs, his grades had slipped and he was busy working every day after school to help support his family.

He said Bernal's class opened his eyes.

"Most people that said, 'Go to college,' were teachers or counselors who didn't have to face the stuff we had to face," said Guanuna, who just finished his first year at LDS Business College. "She was a great example to us, especially because she was Latina. It made us feel like if she could do it, we definitely could do it."

Mark Guanuna, another one of Bernal's former students and Gary Guanuna's cousin, said Bernal inspired the students with her personal story and her dedication. After the semester ended, Bernal put together an ACT prep class for students and kept in touch with many of them during the past few years, even while she was on an LDS mission in Chicago.

"She actually cared," said Mark Guanuna, who now attends the University of Utah. "You could tell she wasn't wasting her time. It was something she wanted to do."

Ted Lyon, one of Bernal's thesis advisors, said he believes that was a big part of Bernal's success with the students. Lyon said he was skeptical at first of her idea for her thesis, but he said she was determined and ultimately her project succeeded.

"She did an amazing job of simply showing interest and love and goodwill to students who hadn't often experienced those positive qualities in their educational experiences," Lyon said in an e-mail from Chile, where he now serves as an LDS temple president. Lyon is now retired but was director of Latin American Studies at BYU at the time.

"The fact that they perceived her work as volunteer, her choice, to spend time with them rather than immerse herself in her own studies, or receive pay, was a major factor."

Jose Enriquez, who was Provo High assistant principal at the time and is now assistant principal at Mountain View High, said Bernal has "a lot of talent" when it comes to reaching youth.

Former student Taby Davila, who is now a Utah Valley University student, said Bernal's dedication inspired her to go into education, too.

"She just wanted to help everyone, and she cared for every single one of us," Davila said. "If it wouldn't have been for Dayan, I think a lot of us wouldn't have thought about college or even graduated from high school."

Davila said she hopes to change someone's life the way Bernal changed hers.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Latina entrepreneurs online directory will help

New Online Directory Helps Find Latina Entrepreneurs in the United States and Puerto Rico
The Latino Journal

San Juan, PR, United States, 05/01/2010 - A new online U.S Directory of Latina Owned Businesses has been released to help buyers, potential strategic partners and investors find and do business with the rapidly growing community of Latina entrepreneurs in the United States and Puerto Rico.

The Hispanic Business Women’s Alliance (HBWA) has announced that it is spearheading a national campaign promoting the theme: “The best way to help Latina entrepreneurs is to buy from them”.

Lourdes Aponte Rosario, President of HBWA and a past recipient of the prestigious U.S. Small Business Administration Women in Business National Champion Award, stated: “We are actively encouraging government and corporate procurement officials, Hispanic business leaders, and the U.S. Hispanic community in general, which including Puerto Rico now exceeds 50 million, to do more business with Latina-owned firms—now estimated at over 700 thousand. Doing so, helps them grow faster, enabling them to significantly increase their contributions to the socio-economic development of their communities.

To facilitate finding Latina-owned companies throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, we have created the online U.S. Directory of Latina-Owned Businesses at our redesigned and content packed website latinamarketplace.com. This state of the art Directory helps buyers easily find and do business with Latina owned firms. It also helps Latina firms gain exposure on the Internet and be easily found by persons seeking to do business with Latina owned firms that otherwise might never find them.”

Ms. Aponte-Rosario also anticipates that non-Hispanic business owners seeking to penetrate the rapidly growing U.S. Hispanic market, estimated at $1 trillion, will utilize the online Directory to identify potential Latina suppliers, distributors, clients or strategic partners.