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The transition to college can be challenging for first-generation students who don’t have a family member’s experiences to help them with all the processes and expectations. For Latinx students who may also be adjusting to a campus where not many other students look like them, the challenge can be even greater. For those students, the Avanzando Through College program helps navigate the college system while also building belonging.
two men at a conferenceAvanzando Through College is a national program established through UnidosUS, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization, and operated by Purdue’s Latino Cultural Center. First-generation Latinx undergraduates who come to Purdue from high school or community college are eligible to apply, as are current first-generation students at Ivy Tech Community College’s Lafayette Campus. The two-semester program consists of 13 workshops that help students learn about college, as well as essential life skills.
Derick Vanegas, a junior currently majoring in organizational leadership and exploring a move into cybersecurity, learned about Avanzando at the Latino Cultural Center’s Connexiones student retreat early in his second year at Purdue. Jaime Del Real was in his last semester at Ivy Tech before transferring to Purdue to major in criminal justice when he received an email about the program. Both were part of the 2021-22 Avanzando Through College cohort, and Derick serves as a mentor to the 2022-23 cohort.
Derick and Jaime both found value in the workshops.
“The thing I loved most was that the workshops weren’t just on topics specifically about college, but were also on life topics,” says Derick. “For instance, the financial issues workshop covered credit scores, managing credit cards and debt.”
For Jaime the workshop on communication and public speaking was particularly helpful.
“The first part of the workshop told us that it’s common to be nervous in a public speaking situation, and the second part helped us sharpen our skills by practicing an ‘elevator pitch’ in the group,” he says. “We learned skills that we could apply in looking for internships and jobs.”
As part of their Avanzando experience, both Derick and Jaime attended the UnidosUS national conference in San Antonio, Texas.
“The Avanzando people at the conference were from all different areas of the country, but we all shared the first-generation experience,” says Jaime. “I gained so much knowledge about issues that surround the Latinx community.”
Derick agrees.
“It was a big thing for me to be surrounded by professionals from all the affiliates of UnidosUS,” he says. “We were able to talk with and even sometimes get internships with some of the people who represented the many companies there.”
Both also took a sense of inspiration from the conference.
“We met a lot of successful Latino professionals,” says Derick. “Seeing Latinos who have accomplished so much makes it feel attainable for me, too.”  quote
Derick and Jaime say their Avanzando Through College experience taught them about college as well as about themselves.
“Many of us see a massive change between who we were at the beginning of the program and who we are now, and we credit that to the Avanzando program and the people and resources we had there,” Derick says. Jaime adds, “I have a good pool of resources whenever I need anything. The program directors and staff are still there to help and support us.”
 
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