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Berks colleges teaming up with Centro Hispano

June 19, 2012

READING, Pa. - More Latino students in Berks County will be considering their college options next fall, thanks to a unique partnership between the Higher Education Council of Berks County (HECBC) and Centro Hispano, the Hispanic Center of Reading and Berks County. The Higher Education Program is providing counseling to Latino students and their parents to help them navigate higher education opportunities and financial aid programs.

Through the partnership, bilingual representatives from the five HECBC institutions (consisting of Albright College, Alvernia University, Kutztown University, Pennsylvania State University-Berks, and Reading Area Community College) work each week at Centro Hispano with high school students who have expressed an initial interest in attending college. The program has been in place since October 2010, and has helped guide hundreds of students and family members through the process by providing them with answers about college selection, enrollment processes, and financial aid.

"It is designed to promote and support the ongoing efforts of increasing college attendance by our Hispanic students," says Michael Toledo, executive director of Centro Hispano. "The ultimate goal is to make the dream of going to college a reality for Latinos. Without an effort like this, there would be a real void for our young adults."

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 58 percent of Reading's 88,000 inhabitants are Hispanic or Latino, and 35 percent of the city's population lives below the poverty level. Centro Hispano and the HECBC hope that providing culturally and linguistically appropriate college counseling services will help to increase the number of Latinos attaining a college degree and lead to better employment opportunities.

HECBC's five presidents worked in conjunction with Centro Hispano's leadership to develop the innovative program, which greatly enhanced the institutions' individual efforts to support Latino populations. 

Centro Hispano seeks to support and enhance the acculturation of the Latino population in the Greater Reading area through collaborative initiatives designed to enable individuals to improve their quality of life and the quality of life in their communities.