¡Vamos! Program Brings Latinx High School Students to Campus and Beyond

students conduct science experiments
July 25, 2019

The students staying in UNC Asheville’s residence halls for a few nights this summer were decidedly younger than usual.

Nine Latinx students from Asheville High School and Erwin High School in UNC Asheville’s iVamos! program got to experience college life, from hanging out and sleeping in the residence halls to eating in the cafeteria to conducting experiments in the chemistry lab.

iVamos! includes field trips, like this adventure on a ropes course.

“It’s a great way to showcase different departments on campus, different buildings, and what campus life is like,” said Alessandra Akers, the iVamos! program coordinator for UNC Asheville’s Office of Pre-College Outreach. “We really enjoy being able to bring them on campus and showing them what it’s like to be here at UNC Asheville.”

It’s part of the ongoing programming offered by iVamos!, which includes weekly tutoring sessions with UNC Asheville students throughout the academic year, field trips, and bilingual family engagement nights. Combined with the summer camp, it all comes together to show our community’s Latinx students that college is within their reach.

“Our community and the US in general is changing really drastically, so I think that it’s important for people to adapt and create programming that reflects those ever-changing needs,” Akers said. “I think it’s meaningful work in terms of college access and high school completion. Education is so valuable in today’s world.”

“Part of it is just taking the fear factor out of this huge thing that’s happening after they graduate,” said John O’Neil, a program coordinator for the Office of Pre-College Outreach. “A lot of the students are first generation college students, so they don’t have a resource to go to within their own home, so the fact that we are with UNC Asheville, and that we can really help take that fear factor out, is helpful.”

Helping to ease those fears is a big part of the work done by UNC Asheville student volunteers, who guide students during the summer camp and throughout the year. For senior Carson Lehmann, who is double majoring in Spanish and political science, volunteering with iVamos! is a regular part of his college-life routine.

“After my classes at UNC Asheville, I drive over there and wait for the kids to get out of their day of school. When they are all settled, I let them take the lead, tell me about their day, what they’re stressed about and what they would like to accomplish in the next hour or so to make them less stressed,” Lehmann said. “Sometimes that is finishing some overdue assignments, working on a senior project or just organizing all of their work. I am really there to provide any assistance in navigating high school and giving any advice that I would have liked to hear at that age.”

“How close I’ve been able to become with some of the students is what surprised me the most,” said Karinna Montoya, a senior double majoring in political science and sociology, and the iVamos! program student assistant. “Some of the students just absolutely love being so involved with anything the program has to offer which is both very rewarding and wonderful to witness.”

For more information about iVamos!, including how to volunteer, visit precollege.unca.edu or email vamos@unca.edu.