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Santa Monica College Latino Center Helps Students Succeed

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

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By Lookout Staff

August 13, 2015 -- When Walter Ramirez began taking classes at Santa Monica College (SMC), the first-generation college student wasn't sure he'd make it.

“I wasn’t very confident in my academic abilities, I had no motivation,” Ramirez said. “Just reaching out for help was a big challenge for me.”

SMC's Latino Center provided Ramirez with the support he needed to navigate the challenging experience of being the first in his family to attend college. The center's Adelante program offered free tutoring in chemistry, English and math, as well as counselors, workshops and smaller classes.

Marie Medina, a teenage mother who says she went to SMC to build a better life for her son, is another first-generation student who found the support she needed at the Latino Center.

“I feel like I belong,” Medina said. “Any time I felt like I was wasting my time in college, I went there and in an instant, they would help change my mind.” 

One of the classes that helped Medina early on, was an Adelante sociology class taught by SMC social science professor Christina Preciado called “Latina/os in Contemporary Society.”

“I related to it and it made me feel like I matter,” said Medina. “SMC taught me that an education is about growing as a I want to start making a difference.”

This spring, Medina was accepted by California State University, Long Beach, where she will major in social work. It was her top choice, she said.

Like Medina, Ramirez was encouraged by an Adelante class that used material that related to the Latino experience, making it easier for him to participate in class discussions.

This summer, he attended “The SMC Undergraduate Research Scholars Academy,” a ten-day research residency at Loyola Marymount University that helps high-achieving underrepresented students “improve research skills and navigate the transfer process,” college officials said.

SMC Communication Studies professor Amanda Whidden, who teaches a public speaking class for the Adelante program, says she tries to create a safe, comfortable place where obstacles can be discussed and overcome.

“I see a true metamorphosis,” Whidden said. “I see students who start out in one spot and end in a completely different spot.”

“Our goal,” said John Quevedo, a math professor who teaches in the Adelante program,” is to help students get from the idea they have in their mind to where they want to be.”

The Latino Center is open to all students, irrespective of ethnicity. The Adelante classes – which offer material relevant to Latino culture where possible – are open to all students who have met the requirements of the Adelante program. For more information about the center visit or call 310-434-4459.

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