Dalton State Leads the Way
August 19, 2014
For the last several years, Dalton State has enrolled the highest percentage of Latino students in the University System of Georgia. This comes as little surprise considering the demographic composition of our community, but now we are within striking distance of being named an Hispanic Service Institution (HSI), a designation that will reap big benefits for all our 5,000 students.
Currently, our Latino enrollment stands at 21 percent. Once we topped 15 percent, we were designated an Emerging HSI, the only one in Georgia. When we reach the magic number of 25 percent, we will be declared an HSI which will make us eligible for generous federal grants that can be used to benefit all students with investment in such things as community development, healthcare, technology, library resources, and academic preparation and performance.
Students will be eligible for additional scholarships, internships, and academic advancement programs, and faculty and staff will have access to research grants, teaching and professional development opportunities, and student support programs. This is certainly a case in which a rising tide can raise all boats – or in our case, all Roadrunners.
Currently, there are 370 colleges and universities that meet the enrollment definition of an HSI, that’s 11 percent of the nation’s higher education institutions. Nearly 60 percent of Latino students choose to enroll in HSIs which tend to be clustered geographically. Eighty percent of all HSIs are located in just five states (California, Texas, New Mexico, Florida, and New York) and Puerto Rico. Again, Dalton State is on track to be the first HSI in Georgia.
The fact that we are an Emerging HSI today is not the result of a marketing strategy or a campaign to recruit a certain kind of student, but merely a reflection of the community in which we find ourselves. This trend emerged organically over the last decade, and is truly a testament to families who value education and recognize it as the best means to a brighter future. When you stop to consider why so many Latino families originally immigrated to our region, doesn’t this make sense? It just stands to reason that parents who want more for their children than they had for themselves would send them to college to get the education they never had. Isn’t that really what the American dream is all about?
Collectively, our Latino students have the highest graduation rate of any ethnic group at Dalton State. Individually, they contribute to campus and community life as valued leaders and volunteers. Our Latin American Student Organization is among our most vibrant student organizations; its roster of 90 members includes students of all colors.
In its mission to create a more educated Georgia and commitment to create a pipeline of college graduates to supply the state’s workforce needs, the University System of Georgia has allocated resources to help improve retention and graduation rates of Hispanic students across the state.
Dalton State last year hired Quincy Jenkins in the newly created role of Director of Hispanic/Latino Outreach. If you haven’t already met Quincy, I hope you will soon. He brings great energy and enthusiasm to strengthening the connection between Dalton State and Latino families of our region, working with them and through them to prepare their sons and daughters to be college students someday.
In the short time he has been here, Quincy has secured a USG grant to increase participation within the larger Hispanic community by engaging the entire family. He has launched a program called “La Familias Unidas” (Families United) and implemented a student-led Latino leadership group called “Embajadores” (Ambassadors) in which Dalton State students mentor local high school students and lead parent workshops on the value of college education.
The better educated our community is, the better for all of us. These students are Roadrunners today but graduates tomorrow; they represent our community’s future workforce, taxpayers, and leaders.