BY EXTENSION: Driven by personal experience, Juntos coordinator helped Latino families find pathways to college

By Maydra Valencia, Former Coordinator of Oregon State University Juntos Program

Imagine being in high school. You are looking forward to graduating and going to college just like all of your friends. Then you realize that you have no idea how to start the process of applying to college. That was my experience as a high school senior in 2009. I was overwhelmed by the feeling of not knowing what to do or who to talk to.
My teachers helped me complete applications to colleges I was interested in, apply for scholarships, and fill out financial aid forms. My parents were supportive but they could not help me because they did not know the process of going to college either. The most difficult thing in this experience was not that I had to learn about it, but I also had to help my parents learn too.


I completed the application process and was accepted to Western Oregon University where I completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish and a minor in Studio Art in 2014. Looking back I am not sure what was more difficult, completing all of the work for my degree or learning how to apply for college and helping my parents understand the process.
In 2014, I joined Oregon State University Open Campus and Extension Service to facilitate the Juntos Program. My role in the Juntos program was to help families just like mine learn the process of going to college and to make their dreams become a reality.
Juntos is a Spanish word that means “together.” Juntos is a six-week program that helps Latino families work together to gain the knowledge, skills, and resources that will help youth in 8th through 12th grades complete high school and go on to college. The sessions include making education a family goal, family and high school communication, requirements for graduation, financing higher education, and making a plan. Because of my own experience, I was able to help families and students avoid feeling as I had.

I worked with incredible community partners like Tillamook Bay Community College and Tillamook School District #9 who are committed to creating opportunities for Latino youth in Tillamook County. Together we created a path for many students to go to college. Some participants graduated from Tillamook Bay Community College this past spring, and others are enrolled in universities across Oregon. Parents participating in the program are also continuing their own education.

This work has been one of the most humbling and best experiences I have had. The Juntos program has given me the opportunity to give back to my community, to grow as a professional, and has shown me that working together makes things possible.
Working with this program has also helped me prepare for my own path to graduate school. I am now in my second year of completing a master’s degree program with the goal of becoming an elementary school teacher. I am leaving my job with Juntos to become a full-time student again to complete my degree.
Juntos will be led by Ryan Stanley, and will continue to help Latino families learn about the pathways to college. The next steps in my journey would not have been possible without the Juntos program or support from Oregon State University, and my community. I plan to continue as a volunteer to support the Juntos program, this community, and the families that have given me so much.

By Extension, Your Connection to the Programs, People, and Publications from OSU Extension Tillamook County

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