The four-day Central Valley Hispanic Youth Institute began Tuesday, July 19, at California State University, Fresno, kicking off a year-round college empowerment program of the Hispanic College Fund.

Tomorrow, the program, which guides Hispanic students to achieve a college education, pursue a professional career and commit to community service, resumes with the Hispanic Heroes session where local Hispanic professionals offer advice and inspiration in a “speed-mentoring” environment.  It will be from 10 to 11 a.m. in the University Dining Hall – East Wing.

This morning, approximately100 Hispanic high school students from the San Joaquin Valley checked into the university’s residence halls for the summer portion of the program that is now in its sixth year at Fresno State.

The university sponsors the institute in partnership with the Hispanic College Fund, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., and local partners including Fresno State’s Lyles College of Engineering and University Outreach Services.

During the summer kick-off, students learn to overcome both real and perceived barriers to college access, attend college and career workshops, meet with college admissions officers, develop relationships with adult and near-peer mentors, learn about the importance of community service and compete for $10,500 in scholarships.

Students were selected for the four-day, three night  kick-off from a pool of more than 376 initial applicants from throughout the Valley based on essay responses, GPA, grade level, and leadership potential.

Participants are from Burrel, Cantua Creek, Firebaugh, Fowler, Fresno, Kerman, Mendota, Reedley, Riverdale, San Joaquin, Selma, Tranquillity, Bakersfield, McFarland, Wasco, Corcoran, Lemoore, Madera, Gustine, Santa Nella, Ceres, Dinuba, Three Rivers, Tipton and Tulare.

Andrew Gonzalez, the fund’s regional institute director.  said the Institute’s success is measured by research showing that 90 percent of participants believed they would go to college. “In addition, 92 percent of our students felt that they were prepared to create changes in their communities,” Gonzalez said. “We are confident that we will achieve similarly positive results again this year.”

“The Hispanic Youth Institute re-inforces our investment in students in the rural Central Valley area,” said Fresno State President John D. Welty said. “With 73 percent of these students the first in their family to go to college, we need to provide resources to navigate a pathway to college and future success.

“This partnership with the Hispanic College Fund expands on years of efforts to ensure access to higher education for more Latino students who will help us build better communities,” added Welty.

Kathryn Grady, the Hispanic College Fund director of corporate and foundations for the western states credits the tremendous resources that are brought to the students from community volunteers and donors for the programs success.

Community partners of the 2011 Hispanic Youth Institute are Central Valley Cal-SOAP, Fresno State, the Ivy League Project, Lyles College, San Francisco Hispanic Affairs Advisory Council (Social Security Administration) and USDA Forest Service Central California Consortium.

Community sponsors are the Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Kaiser Permanente, NASA, Darden Restaurants Foundation, El Monterey/Ruiz Foods, F. Joseph Loughrey, Lumina Foundation, Fresno Regional Foundation, Safeway, Union Bank, Allright Diversified, Fresno State and Google.

National sponsors are Bank of America, Darden Restaurants Foundation, National Nuclear Security Administration and the Social Security Administration.

After the summer institute, additional activities and programming will reach an additional 800 students in Valley communities to promote college and career achievement among underserved youth.

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