Marquette University 'Encuentros' mentoring program making a difference on Hispanic high school students

NOW: Marquette University ’Encuentros’ mentoring program making a difference on Hispanic high school students

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58)--  Marquette University has a mentoring program focused on fostering meaningful interactions of minority high school students with Marquette college students who come from similar backgrounds.

"They guide you through the college process and it's very helpful because you get to socialize and see what the day-to-day life is for a college student at Marquette. I definitely feel very blessed to have someone that I can look up to. They're a great role model for me," said Jimena Sencion, a student at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. She is part of the Encuentros program.  

The Encuentros program has made a significant impact on students from Cristo Rey like Sencion. The program pairs Cristo Rey students with Marquette University students to be their mentors and give them with the tools they need to reach their full potential and be successful.

"Mentors are amazing. These are students who often come from similar backgrounds. As students from Cristo Rey, many of them are first generation, low income, underrepresented minorities. They have an understanding of what it's like to kind of walk that path towards college with many barriers in their path," said Jacki Black, director of Hispanic initiatives at Marquette University.

"It's always cool to see students you are mentoring make it to college and see their dreams flourish in front of you," said Max Hernandez, a mentor of the Encuentros program.

As a Cristo Rey alumni, son of immigrant parents and a first generation student, Hernandez knows exactly what it's like to go through the overwhelming process of navigating the university system on your own. That's why he says he is happy to help his mentees so that they don't go through what he went through when he was in high school.

"I wish I had this whenever I was applying to colleges and doing all this stuff, but now that it is available to a lot of students, especially the ones here at Cristo Rey Jesuit in Milwaukee, I would recommend them to go for it and to apply because it could be a life-changing experience," said Hernandez.

Some of Hernandez's mentees have gone on to be Marquette University students like him. Having the support from a mentor who understands the high school students and was once in their shoes is something that makes a big difference as they're getting ready for the next big step in their life.

"We really feel that it's our responsibility to create connections to the local community and to make sure we are writing some of those imbalances and some of those inequities that we see for students who don’t necessarily have a clear pathway towards college and maybe don’t know how to navigate that process," said Black.

"I never had a parent guiding me through that process, so I'm experiencing that myself for the first time and it's very helpful. The mentors feel like a sibling to me. I highly recommend it to any other student. It's very, very, very helpful in terms of academics and you also feel very welcomed. You feel a part of a community where you're deeply loved and cared for," said Sencion.

To learn more about the program, click here.

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