ASU organization seeks to educate, empower Hispanic youth in Arizona

The Hispanic Mother Daughter Program gives future Sun Devils and their families crucial information about college

A note from the editors

The State Press is choosing to publish two versions of this story — one in English and one in Spanish — to more accurately represent the experiences of the diverse community of ASU students we cover in this and other articles. The Spanish version was written and edited by staffers fluent in the language, just as any story would be.

Read the story in Spanish here

Throughout the years, the Hispanic Mother Daughter Program at ASU has had a lasting impact on the future success of Hispanic youth in surrounding communities. 

According to its website, the program is an “early-outreach middle and high school program designed to increase the number of first-generation Arizona students who are qualified and prepared to enroll at Arizona State University through direct family involvement.” 

HMDP is a five-year commitment where first-generation students apply in the seventh grade to begin the process in their eighth grade year. HMDP is going on its 35th year and currently assists over 700 students.

Members of the HMDP program are selected after an application and interview process, and applicants must be in the 7th grade, a first-generation college student and meet certain academic requirements.

Both the student and one of their parents must participate in the program and attend four annual workshops, which are offered in both English and Spanish. Topics discussed in the workshops typically center around providing students with college readiness tips, information about the application process, scholarship opportunities and more.

Sylvia Symonds, associate vice president of Educational Outreach and Student Services at ASU said, “Programs like HMDP are critical to providing the college readiness that students need in order to be successful.”

As an ASU graduate herself, she said the institution can provide students with a home and community that will support them, ensuring that students will be positioned to be leaders in their careers.

Symonds said family plays a crucial role in promoting student success.

“My mother worked for ASU for 20 years, and even though she didn’t have a degree, she worked very hard to ensure that I had every opportunity, and she would help guide me on my path to higher education,” she said.

As a first-generation college student, Symonds said students should make the most of their opportunities to demonstrate to others just how important education is. 

“You all have a responsibility to your families, younger siblings and everyone around you to do everything you can to make sure that your higher education dreams become a reality.”

Vanesa Contreras Rodriguez, vice president of El Concilio and business entrepreneurship senior, organized the "Mi Historia, Mi Cultura Cafecito" event last month for HMDP. The event's purpose was to create a memorable experience and an all-inclusive environment for mothers, daughters and their families.

Rodriguez sought to provide these young girls with the opportunity to hear about the experiences of other Chicanx/Latinx/Hispanic female students in order to provide them with a comprehensive understanding of their place within the University as a minority.

"We're not supposed to be here. The system is not made for us. So, how can we use our diverse perspective and different roles in the community to help us reach for success?" Rodriguez said.

She said it is crucial that these young girls recognize that the system is not necessarily created to fulfill their needs as women within an underrepresented community.

“I want them to realize they’re not alone at the University even though it may come to seem like it,” Rodriguez said.

Alizianna La Turco, HMDP coordinator and graduate student studying higher and postsecondary education, said offering this free program to students who are unaware about college helps the student build a relationship with the family member involved and evolve as an individual.

“For many students, Spanish may be their first language, and the fact that we offer our services in Spanish provides students with the confidence to ask questions,” La Turco said. “This is especially important for the parents who want a better life for their kids than what they had growing up.”

Leslie Zacarias, who has participated in the program, said HMDP has played an influential role in her and her mother's life.

“I want to go to college not only for myself, but for my mom and dad, to show them their hard work was worth something – also, for my little sister who looks up to me,” the high school senior said.

Zacarias works to set the example for her sister, adding that HMDP has helped her pursue her dreams.

"No one in my family has gone to college, and being the first (to attend) is going to make my parents very proud," she said.

Her mother, Juana Rangel, said, "I don't want her to feel any pressure that she has to do this to uplift her family."

She said to her daughter, "With whatever you do, if I see that you're happy and that you do it with your heart, that's what truly matters to me."

Rangel said she recognizes just how much support HMDP has provided.

"This program has been a huge help to our family since my husband and I did not go to college, so we don’t understand the process or the resources available," she said. "Without the support we are receiving from ASU, we wouldn’t know which steps to take next."

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