When Cinthya Campos (BA, ’15) was in high school, her father Luis Manuel taught her a valuable lesson. He encouraged her to work a minimum-wage job to see if she could sustain herself on a modest paycheck. One summer working at McDonald’s was all it took, Cinthya said: “It made me want to go to college!”
That was her father’s plan all along. College was an opportunity he didn’t have when he emigrated from Mexico in the 1980s, so he worked in restaurants and a casino to support his family in both countries.
Now, he can share in his daughter’s college experience as Cinthya prepares to graduate with a business degree this spring. Her parents and younger sister and brother attended Roosevelt’s First Annual Latino Families Brunch.
“College is a very big step in my life, and I want my family to be part of it,” said Cinthya, who will be the first of 48 grandchildren in her family to graduate college. “My parents have always supported me, and it’s important to my parents that I’m in school. Events like this are an opportunity for them to feel important as well.”
The family brunch, on February 28 in the Auditorium Building library, was held to celebrate Roosevelt’s growing Latino student population and to help answer any questions or concerns they may have. During the brunch, 10 students, professors and staff members gave bilingual presentations to a large group of students and their families about financial aid, academic advising, career counseling and student life. Assistant Provost for College Access Israel Vargas organized the event.
“We have a lot of Latino students who are first-generation, and often their parents may not have the best understanding of higher education or they may have a language barrier,” Vargas said. “By engaging parents in a culturally competent way, we can support the whole family and also encourage greater retention for these students.”
Roosevelt has seen a 25 percent rise in its Latino student population from 2011 to 2014, an increase Vargas attributes to Roosevelt’s community engagement in Chicago-area Latino communities. The trajectory has put Roosevelt on a path toward becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a U.S. Department of Education designation that would make the University eligible to receive federal grants.
In an effort to better serve, support and retain Latino students, Assistant Vice President of Community Engagement Jennifer Tani held a focus group in the spring of 2014. She asked students to offer feedback on their experiences at Roosevelt, and she learned many Latino students value Spanish-language information, bilingual events, and—most importantly—family engagement.
Vargas, who has been recognized for his work in helping Chicago-area Latinos gain access to education, agreed.
“Family is so important in Latino culture; we walk in family units. Events like the family brunch are an opportunity to put faces to names. It helps us communicate that we are not just a tall steel building—we become familia.”
The speakers during the brunch passed along advice as they would to family, too. Roosevelt student speaker Liliana Martinez (BA, ‘17) told her classmates: “We have to do everything in our power to take advantage of the resources at Roosevelt that will help us succeed in life.” Roosevelt alumna Leticia Madrigal (MA, ‘05) gave a presentation about the importance of networking. “When there’s an opportunity for you to contribute to the world, just do it,” she said. After Madrigal finished her speech, she sat next to the Campos family and asked Cinthya about her career goals. Cinthya shared that she wants to work for a nonprofit organization someday. Madrigal punched Cinthya’s email address into her phone and said, “Let me see how I can help you.”
As Cinthya and her family finished their meal, Cinthya reflected on what it will feel like to be the first in her family to graduate college. “I’m proud to give back to my parents after all they’ve done for me.”