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'You have to work twice as hard'

Hispanic IVCC students share struggles and triumphs

Illinois Valley Community College Hispanic students (from left) Rebecca Moreno and Mia Preciado smile as Gabriela Nanez talks about struggles and triumphs she’s experienced on Wednesday at the college. The college has hosted several events to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
Illinois Valley Community College Hispanic students (from left) Rebecca Moreno and Mia Preciado smile as Gabriela Nanez talks about struggles and triumphs she’s experienced on Wednesday at the college. The college has hosted several events to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

College isn’t normalized in Hispanic households, explained Mia Preciado, 19, of Mendota.

“You don’t really hear ‘You’re going to college.’ It’s more like ‘Oh, where are you going to be working at next?’” Preciado said.

Wednesday afternoon, five Hispanic Illinois Valley Community College students shared their struggles and triumphs at the college as part of a celebration for Hispanic Heritage Month.

“Most of us are first-generation students,” said Ashley Diaz to Shaw Media after the session was over. Being a first-generation student is a struggle when parents don’t know how to help their students apply for college or know if they qualify for financial aid, she said.

Parents of first-generation students may not even know what financial aid is, said Gabriela Nanez.

“Basically we’re figuring it out on our own, step by step, trying to be successful,” said Diaz.

During the question and answer session, someone in the crowd asked what the students wished their teachers knew about them and their background.

Rutilio Arteaga said that his father attended high school, so he knew most of the material when Arteaga asked him for help, but now that he’s in college, it’s hard for him to ask for help on the current material.

Arteaga shared that seeing the struggle his parents went through pushed him to further his education and set a good example for his younger brother.

Nanez shared that it’s common to go to open house events and presenters leave out information that presenters think students already know, such as the fact that someone can choose between getting an associate of science versus an associate of arts degree.

“All the stuff they think we know, we don’t,” Nanez said.

Rebecca Moreno and Gabriela Nanez mentioned it can be uncomfortable and intimidating to ask questions in a room full of people who already know the answers to questions they may have.

Lack of connections in the area can make navigating college difficult as well.

“There’s favoritism in the La Salle-Peru area,” said Moreno, mentioning that some teachers will indicate when they know someone’s family and indicate when they don’t know someone’s family.

Students lose out on scholarships when people don’t know their families and when students don’t have those connections that others do, Nanez said.

“You have to work twice as hard,” Moreno said.

How can IVCC and the community help Hispanic students more?

Illinois Valley Community College student Rebecca Moreno said the college and community should offer more resources and show what opportunities are out there, especially considering the information and policies coming from President Donald Trump’s administration. IVCC student Gabriela Nanez said many people don’t go to college because they’re afraid and don’t know they can go to college if they don’t have their papers. (Undocumented people who graduated from an Illinois high school can attend college, but they’re not eligible for federal financial aid).

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