• Jaydon Whitfield stops by a booth
  • Thang Sawm Cin talks to local McDonald’s owner and operator Tony Castillo
  • Signs with encouraging messages held by students in the photo booth
  • Gina Geluso fills out an application to get more information about Davenport University at the college and recruitment fair part of the summit
  • Carlos Ojeda Jr. from CoolSpeak told students their voice is their power
  • Speakers Carlos Ojeda Jr. and Ernesto Mejía chat with Union High School principal Karl Nelson, right, after the summit

Helping Hispanic Students Get to and Through College

by Linda Odette  

Getting Hispanic students to pursue a college education is the main goal of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (UHSLI), an organization that brought its student summit to Grand Rapids recently. Held at Union High School, the event featured Hispanic speakers with inspiring stories about how to beat obstacles, like paying for school and overcoming personal challenges to success. Students also learned about scholarships and resources that can help get them through college.

McDonald’s has partnered with UHSLI for five years to present the event. Tony Castillo, the operator of several local McDonald’s restaurants, plus Carlos Ojeda Jr. and Ernesto Mejía, motivational speakers from CoolSpeak, were the key speakers.

Jaimme Maldonado’s sign for photo booth pictures says, “I can make my dreams come true” Encouraging Trends for Latinos

  • On average, white and Asian students earn a college-level credential about 20 percent more than Hispanic and black students. (National Student Clearinghouse Research Center)
  • In 2014, 35 percent of Hispanics ages 18 to 24 were enrolled in a two- or four-year college, up from 22 percent in 1993. (Pew Research Center)
  • A 42 percent increase in Hispanic-American college students is projected by 2021, with a 25 percent increase projected for African-American students and only a 4 percent increase for white students. (National Center for Education Statistics)
  • A 2016 survey indicates that Hispanics are more optimistic about the value of a college education than whites. (College Board/National Journal Next America Poll)


United States Hispanic Leadership Institute

McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship


Submitted on: October 13th 2017

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