Fresno State will soon enhance its partnerships with Fresno City College and Reedley College to create a pathway of support for Latinx students who want to be teachers in the San Joaquin Valley.

It will start with recruiting early in local high schools, helping students through the community colleges then into Fresno State’s liberal studies and teacher credential program in the Kremen School of Education and Human Development to earn a bachelor’s degree and teaching credential.

The goal is to increase the number of bilingual Latinx teachers who will return to their hometowns to inspire and teach the community’s future leaders.

“It’s about growing our own — growing students who mirror children in P-12 schools whether it be ethnically, linguistically, racially or in terms of overall experiences,” said Dr. Laura Alamillo, interim dean for the Kremen School.

Fresno State received a five-year, $3.75 million Title V grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will allow it to partner with the local community colleges in growing the Valley’s teachers. Each of the three schools is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education, meaning at least 25 percent of the undergraduate enrollment is Hispanic.

Nearly half of all undergraduate students at Fresno State are Hispanic. The percentage goes up at Fresno City and Reedley where the Hispanic student population is 53 percent and 71 percent, respectively.

“There is a huge demand in the region for teachers, especially Hispanic teachers whose proportions lag the proportion of Hispanic students,” said Dr. Robert Harper, interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Fresno State. “Fresno State is proud to partner with Fresno City College and Reedley College to provide a pipeline for future Hispanic teachers to return to their communities and make a difference in our Valley.

About 80 percent of Fresno State graduates stay and work in the Valley.

In Fresno County, Hispanics only make up about 25 percent of the public school teachers while the student population is nearly 65 percent Hispanic, according to the California Department of Education.

Dr. Patricia D. López, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction at Fresno State, will oversee the grant. The Visalia native spent nearly a decade overseeing the “Grow Your Own” teacher initiatives focused on developing partnerships to increase the number of Latinx teachers nationwide.

López will work to recruit high school students to attend the community colleges. The first cohort of 30 students on each campus will start in fall 2019 by taking Associate to Degree Transfer courses, and after two years will transfer to Fresno State to pursue their bachelor’s degrees in liberal studies and multiple subject credentials. They will also have an opportunity to obtain their bilingual certification. Each campus will have a designated resident counselor and director to support students.

“We’re completely strengthening and finding new ways to build the capacity of local communities,” López said. “This is an opportunity for us to underscore the things that we are already doing well.”

In addition to increasing the number of Hispanic teachers, the program will help retention as well. The idea behind recruiting from the community is that once finished with their degrees, students will remain local to teach in the Valley.

These are the students with the biggest heart and dedication for their hometowns where they feel they can make a difference, López said.

“We have many young people here that are committed to contributing to the Valley.”