Many Hispanic students face particular challenges to entering college and completing a degree. The Hispanic Higher Education Consortium is designed to address and overcome these challenges.
Challenges include gaining access to financial assistance, along with culturally relevant and contextually appropriate information about higher education. A recent college fair took direct aim at these and other challenges frequently faced by Hispanic students.
About 50 students and parents gathered Oct. 22 at Del Sol Church’s East Campus in El Paso for the first Hispanic Higher Education Consortium College Fair.
Recruiters from eight Texas Baptist schools welcomed attendees—Wayland Baptist University, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Stark College and Seminary, Howard Payne University, Hardin-Simmons University, Dallas Baptist University, Baylor University and Baptist University of the Américas.
The evening culminated with 11 scholarship awards. DBU, HPU and UMHB each awarded three $2000 scholarships, and BUA and HSU each awarded one $2,000 scholarship, for a total of $22,000 in scholarships awarded at the college fair.
The purpose of the fair
“The purpose of the fair was to recruit students to attend our [Texas] Baptist universities,” said Sylvia Villareal, a consortium team leader. “No state schools were invited to recruit.”
“We offered five conferences with topics such as getting ready for college, how to apply to college, how to fill out FAFSA forms, why it’s important to attend a Christian institution and goal setting,” she added.
Stephen Stookey, director of theological education for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, also explained the Ministerial Financial Assistance program, which provides funds to students attending a Texas Baptist college or university in pursuit of a church-related vocational career.
The college fair was a joint effort of Texas Baptists, El Paso Baptist Association, Del Sol Church—who hosted and whose praise and worship band led worship during the event—and other partners.
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“As a result of our combined efforts, we will have students enrolling in our Baptist universities in the fall who had not even considered doing so before our event,” Villareal said.
“For me, college education is very important and is a pathway to fulfilling my dreams of helping out my family and others,” said Luis Rosales, one of the scholarship recipients. “It also allows me to learn more, which I always love.”
“The scholarship I received is very significant, because it allows me to pursue furthering my education in a great college that is far enough to hike my independence, but close enough to not feel homesick,” he added.
“I have always wanted to get a degree that has math included. Some of the main ones that interest me are business management or engineering,” Rosales said.
Initiative and Consortium
The Hispanic Higher Education Consortium is distinct from the Hispanic Education Initiative.
Led by Rolando Rodriguez, director of Texas Baptists en Español, the initiative’s stated goal is “to keep students in school through graduation and then on to college, reclaiming students who left school and helping preschoolers be prepared for kindergarten.” The initiative encourages students to attend any college.
The consortium began two years ago when David Hardage, then-executive director of the BGCT, named Lorenzo Peña to head a group whose exclusive purpose was to “promote, recruit and retain college students in [Texas] Baptist universities,” Villareal explained.
Peña chose seven founding members—Gabriel Cortés, David Natividad, Irene Gallegos, Jake Montoya, Jordan Villanueva, Robert Rueda and Villareal.
The consortium focuses on five priorities with a team assigned to accomplishing each. The priorities are to:
• Establish a hub of culturally relevant information and communication for Hispanic students, parents and churches.
• Develop partnerships among Texas Baptist churches, compañerismos, associations and institutions to improve recruitment, retention and successful completion of degrees by Hispanic students.
• Develop a pipeline of Hispanic higher education leaders.
• Create collaborative funding efforts.
• Create a training platform for Texas Baptist university personnel that will lead to higher graduation and placement rates of Hispanic students.
Teams consist of laypersons, university personnel, college presidents and staff members, pastors, associational directors, compañerismo directors, Baptist Student Ministry directors and others.
The college fair is an expression of the second priority, whose team Villareal leads.
Two more fairs are being planned—one in the Del Rio/Uvalde area in spring 2024 and another in South Texas in fall 2024.