At 5.9% of the Utah State University body, Latinos are the largest minority group on campus. They are also the student group most likely not to attend a university after high school. If they do attend college, they are the group most likely to not complete a bachelor's degree. One community organization working to improve those numbers by supporting Latino students in Cache Valley.
The organization Leadership, Educational Achievement and Prosperity, or LEAP, is a scholarship program for Cache Valley Latino students who want to attend Utah State University. Through the program, students can receive funding for their freshman year of college.
Rigo Chaparro is the president of the LEAP, which has been providing support to students for three years.
“[The foundation] is to help Latino students succeed, but more than that, it is to help Latinos to become leaders in the Cache, Box Elder, and Preston communities,” Chaparro said.
The COVID-19 pandemic created some challenges for LEAP. Donations from businesses, organizations and individuals are down. There are fewer student applications as well. Support from regular donors is helping the program continue and Chaparro is optimistic about the future of the foundation.
“What are the plans for the future? We are going to give the program five years and we are going to see how it works,” he said. “There are people who have realized what we are doing, like this year, a family gave us $12,000 of the $60,000 because they liked the idea”.
Melanie Hernandez is a LEAP scholarship recipient. She found out about the scholarship through a class called Latino Discovery at her high school, which she said was designed to help students like herself learn how to manage the multiple cultures in their lives.
“In my last two years I had the opportunity to be president and secretary, and when I was secretary, it was when the organization offered the scholarship,” she said. “Then I saw that all the students applied and all of them were given the scholarship. Many of those people said, ‘I'm not going to college’ but they had the opportunity to go to university because of that scholarship".
In addition to scholarships, LEAP helps provide personal tutoring, internships, and employment for students.
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