K-State Olathe Teams up with Community Partners to Increase Post-Secondary Education Opportunities for Latinos

April 29, 2021

A group of diverse graduates

The Latino community is rapidly growing in both Johnson County and the United States. As a result, higher education institutions are increasing their opportunities and outreach to Latino communities.

Increasing the number of Latino students in Greater Kansas City's community, state and private colleges has become a key focus for K-State Olathe.

“The Latino community is rapidly growing in both Johnson County and the United States. In fact, that demographic has grown nearly 8% in the past decade. As a result, higher education institutions are increasing their opportunities and outreach to Latino communities,” said Laura Loyacono, director of education and community engagement at K-State Olathe. “Helping those students and their families navigate transitions from high school to college is central to our missions and crucial to the Kansas City business community.”

To that end, K-State Olathe is teaming up with local organizations and schools to offer programs and events to reach the Latino community more effectively.

Latinos Go to College
In late March, the campus hosted its “Latinos Go to College” event. The bilingual, online event provided attendees with information and resources about 21st-century programs at the high schools. These specialized, application-based high school programs provide accepted students with an immersive four-year education around a specific career field and access to industry standard tools used by field professionals. Students gain relevant knowledge and work experience for a fast-track into a highly skilled career out of high school or college credit for an accelerated secondary degree, high school preparation programs, community college offerings and financial aid.

The event includes a virtual college fair with regional institutions including K-State, the University of Kansas, Avila University, Donnelly College, Fort Hays State University, Kansas City Kansas Community College, Johnson County Community College and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“Latinos Go to College” partnered with education-, community- and faith-based cornerstones of the Latino community. For example, one of the organizing partners was St. Paul Catholic Church in Olathe, which has a large Latino congregation. Because of that, Father Michael Hermes sometimes holds college fairs at the church following Mass. 

“We encourage all our young people to consider college so they can better serve our community and do something special with their lives,” Hermes said. “The ‘Latinos Go to College’ event will help students and their parents realize that a college education is an obtainable goal.”

Kansas State College Advising Corps
As another way to reach the Latino community, K-State is establishing a high school-to-higher education pipeline for Latino students through its Kansas State College Advising Corps, or KSCAC, established in 2016.

Headquartered at K-State Olathe, the program stations recent K-State graduates in 13 Kansas City-area high schools with large Latino student bodies. Program recruiters work one-on-one with Latino and underrepresented students throughout their senior year to explore post-high school education options, navigate the admissions and financial aid processes and find a school that best fits their needs and career aspirations.

“The power of the KSCAC model is that high school students are connecting with advisors with similar life experiences who demonstrate that college is attainable,” said Meaghan Higgins, program director.

KC BizFest
The campus also sponsors KC BizFest, an event that offers Greater Kansas City-area high school sophomores, juniors and seniors – particularly those in the Latino community – the opportunity to learn life skills and business techniques. Admitted students attend four days of intensive training, where they learn how to turn hobbies and skills into profit-making ventures, establish entrepreneurial and leadership goals, create plans for business and life and become effective leaders and team members. 

KC BizFest is a collaboration with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City and 15 corporations, small businesses, colleges and universities.