Emily Coleman, Michelle Ramirez, and Jenny Gonzalez

Making an Impact on the Community

A recent grant, funded by The Robert H. Spitz Foundation, is giving Marywood University representatives the opportunity to make an immediate impact on the community. The STARS, Students Together Achieving Remarkable Success, Program, an after-school mentoring/homework help program for students in grades 7-12 has been established in the community.

With the continuous growth of the Latino population in Scranton, Marywood University knew there was a need to build more relationships in the Latino community. A former English as a Second Language teacher in the Scranton School District, Ms. Emily Coleman, academic support specialist for the English Language Learners at Marywood University, and STARS director, has had many interactions with the Latino students and their families.

Through conducting a needs assessment in Spanish with the parents at St. John Neumann Church and the Steamtown Church, Scranton, the idea came together to create a program for secondary age students. Additional support for the STARS program was provided by administrators in the Scranton School District and the Educational Enrichment Institute at the IHM Center.

Marywood students are mentoring the Latino youth to bring more awareness to different degrees and options that exist in higher education by sharing their educational journey and aspirations with the youth in the hope that they can inspire them to start thinking about their futures.

Graduate students in the social work program at Marywood University, Jenny Gonzalez and Michelle Ramirez, have been working with Ms. Coleman to bring the STARS program to fruition. Both Ms. Ramirez, Ms. Coleman, and Ms. Gonzalez have created mentoring themes, ideas for both youth and parent workshops, and help conduct volunteer training with a focus on mentoring and cultural awareness.

There is considerable interest in the STARS Program. Currently the program is able to serve 22 youth with a wait list of 20 additional students. Throughout the academic year, STARS will not only hold parent and youth workshops on topics such as public education and the process of applying to college, but has also formed an advisory board made up of parents and Latino community leaders to keep ongoing conversations about how the STARS program is performing and to make any adjustments to the program to fully serve the Latino population.