ASU expands resources for Spanish-speaking families

The University has developed a variety of programs to help guide Spanish-speaking families through the transition to college

When Ashley Ontiveros, a sophomore studying architecture and first-generation college student, was applying to college, her family wasn't familiar with how the application process works, how to file FAFSA or how college life in the U.S. looks.

Ontiveros and her family speak Spanish regularly in their household and bilingual programs like the ones ASU is working on creating could have aided in her transition process from high school to college. 

“It was a complex process of trying to find the right resources for me because everyone’s experiencing the transition to college differently," Ontiveros said. "Some people have older siblings, but I didn’t have anyone in my family that I personally talked to all the time that I could ask questions."

She said she used the First-Year Success Center because she didn't know how to navigate the college application process.

"I feel like the first-generation students in families are always the lab rats," Ontiveros said. "When it comes to your younger siblings, they have all the information from when you went through the process. These programs are a good start for sure because it means that parents are getting informed."

To respond to issues like these, the University hosted its orientation events in Spanish for the first time this year and has worked alongside faculty to produce coursework for parents to help them understand the transition and schooling format in Arizona. 

“When COVID hit, we asked ourselves how we can continue to support these families," said Christian Rosario, assistant director of ASU's American Dream Academy. "We launched ASU en Español to support our families and continue to provide them with the tools and knowledge they need to help their children be successful. It took off, and people in the community welcomed the platform and have shown great engagement."

ASU en Español is the Facebook platform where the American Dream Academy posts videos on various topics for families to view for free. Rosario said there are three levels of curriculum for parents to use: elementary, middle school and high school. 

He said the elementary and middle school videos focus on learning about Arizona's school system and the vocabulary used every day in the classroom to help set the foundation for the high school topics in the course. The high school course helps parents navigate how to apply to and pay for college.  

Rosario said after the pandemic shut down in-person operations at ASU, the team got together to break down its eight-week curriculum into 200 shorter topics, such as college readiness, how to support children at school and how to navigate the American school system.

In addition to these online courses offered to families, Arizona-based bilingual journalist Mary Rábago and ASU's executive director of outreach Marcela Lopez host Facebook Live events on ASU en Español's Facebook page every Wednesday.

“I pick up on Wednesday and kind of tag on to the previous video, explain it a bit more and then try to entice them to watch the next video,” Lopez said. 

Lopez said these programs are beneficial to the families to “make sure that they learn what Arizona is all about and how the education system here operates." She said the virtual format allows the University to connect with more families. 

"ASU has a number of resources here to support our students and families, but we needed a platform to connect our community with those resources," Lopez said. "We knew that a virtual setting would be best and with our platform, we can connect the families and students to resources in their own language."

In addition to these programs, ASU is expanding the Sunny chatbot to offer parents and students help in Spanish. It is estimated to launch early in 2021.

ASU also allows mothers and daughters to join the Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program, which helps prepare first-generation students to enroll at ASU. Mentors in the program work to provide students with resources and prepare them for higher education.

Ontiveros said programs that aim to engage Spanish-speaking families with ASU's resources could make a difference for first-generation students like her and their families.

"I know for a lot of Hispanic households the school system here is so different, so I think it is a good start for parents to get informed," Ontiveros said.


Reach the reporter at lkobley@asu.edu and follow @LKobley on Twitter.

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