NEW YORK -- Latino U College Access was recognized as part of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics at a White House ceremony last week. Latino U College access is the venture of a Pace University alumna, and earlier this year, the school's Helene and Grant Wilson Center for Social Entrepreneurship selected the organization as its 2015-2016 Social Enterprise in Residence.
On October 15, 2015 on the culmination of the 2015 Hispanic Heritage Month, the President announced 150 Commitments to Action with a collective investment of nearly $340 million which will build on and accelerate federal, state and local investments in high-quality education from cradle-to-career for the nation's Latino community.
Latino U College Access, a Westchester County nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase college enrollment and completion rates among Latino youth who are first in their families to go to college, answered the call to action with its Commitment FAFSA First! Westchester County Coalition to Support Hispanic Student FAFSA Completion. The Commitment joins together Latino U College Access and 11 Westchester County Community stakeholders to engage in a community-wide effort and promotion to increase awareness of financial aid and FAFSA completion by Hispanic students and families.
"We are honored to lead this coalition and to be recognized as one of over 140 public and private sector leaders who answered the Call to Action," said Shirley Acevedo Buontempo, Executive Director of Latino U College Access. "Through our Commitment, we are helping to improve the educational attainment of Hispanic youth in Westchester County by supporting their college dreams so that they may fulfill their academic potential and ensure the success of future generations." The Coalition has committed to assist over 900 Hispanic students with FAFSA completion over the next three years.
Latino U College Access was founded by Shirley Acevedo Buontempo, a double Pace alumna, after she completed her Master in Public Administration at Pace in 2012. She articulated her vision for Latino U in a business plan assignment for her Social Entrepreneurship course in the program. Since its early stages, the Wilson Center and Pace University have played an important part in the development Latino U College Access.
"This White House recognition is a testament to the power of Shirley's vision," Rebecca Tekula, PhD, Executive Director of Pace's Wilson Center, said. "Latino U College Access is a great example of a social venture grown at Pace, and we are proud to partner with them through our in-residence program to strategically support their continued growth and impact."
The Wilson Center's Social Enterprise in Residence program connects an innovative social enterprise with the Pace community each year, giving the resident organization the opportunity to fully participate in the academic community, and offering Pace students and faculty members a living case study of social enterprise in action.
"I, too, was a first-generation Latina college student," Buontempo says. "The education I received at Pace University has transformed my life and the opportunities before me. The support that we have received during the formation of Latino U College Access has enabled us to grow and succeed beyond expectation. I will be forever grateful to my alma mater."
"It is an honor to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and the Initiative's 25th anniversary," Alejandra Ceja, Executive Director, White House Initiative for Educational Excellence, said. "These commitments will bring critical resources to Latino students, and families across this country are examples of meaningful investments being made in support of the largest, youngest and arguably the fastest growing minority community in the country and will help fulfill America's future."