Jessie Garcia Van De Griek, well-known in Nashville’s Latino community as the director of the YMCA of Middle Tennessee’s Latino Achievers Program, has moved to Lipscomb University to establish a Latino program in the Office of Intercultural Engagement and Development, devoted to student development, multicultural awareness and fund-raising for the Latino Scholars program.
Van De Griek’s new position is part of Lipscomb’s efforts to attract high achieving students from the Latino community, begun in 2008 when the Lipscomb admissions department established a relationship with the YMCA’s Latino Achievers Program and then helped establish the Y’s Latino Achievers Scholarship.
Van De Griek, who was born in Arizona and grew up spending much of her childhood in Mexico, is well familiar with the challenges faced by Latino students in the new millennium. Her mother was a field worker and by the time she was in the sixth grade, Van De Griek had attended 13 schools.
Despite such educational barriers, Van De Griek became the first in her family to graduate high school and to attend college. Three-and-a-half years ago, she joined the YMCA to help today’s students achieve those same accomplishments despite the barriers in their culture.
“At the YMCA’s Latino Achievers program we zeroed in on helping Latino students understand the importance of maintaining their cultural heritage while also establishing their own identity, including empowering them to get a college education,” Van De Griek said.
Lipscomb became part of that effort by partnering with the YMCA in 2008 to administer the Y’s Latino Achievers Scholarship, valued at up to $22,000 for each student over a four-year period. The university has also worked with the public schools through the Committee of Latino Parents (COPLA) and with Conexión Américas through the annual Hispanic Forum, held on campus for the past two years.
Lipscomb’s Latino student population rose from 59 in fall 2007 to 135 Latinos entering the university in fall 2010.
“The YMCA’s Latino Achievers Program has a proven track record for identifying capable Latino high school students and helping them to envision and prepare themselves for a successful college experience,” said Lipscomb President L. Randolph Lowry. “I have no doubt that Jessie Garcia Van De Griek will make the same impact in the lives of these students once they step onto campus. Bringing Latino students to Lipscomb not only benefits the students themselves, their families and their communities, but also contributes to our entire student body becoming more well-rounded global citizens.”
“As of 2009, the majority of Latino young adults in the U.S. were native born,” Van De Griek noted. “Organizations must begin addressing this population, and Lipscomb is certainly ahead of the curve of colleges across the nation. I want to be part of a place looking to the future, and I want to be part of the solution.”
Van De Griek’s new duties will also include working to establish the Latino Scholars Program. The goal is to raise 16 privately-funded scholarships of $20,000 per year for four years, allowing 16 qualified students to attend Lipscomb at no cost to themselves.
SunTrust Bank committed in May to provide the first of the 16 scholarships. The university hopes to have all 16 partners in place and the first Latino Scholars to enter school in fall 2011. The YMCA’s Latino Achievers program will continue to be the feeder program for both the Latino Achievers Scholarships and the Latino Scholars Program.
Van De Griek will also serve as a mentor for Latino students, emphasizing character development and leadership training, and will work in tandem with Tenielle Buchanan, the assistant dean of students for intercultural development, to give every student of any race a multi-cultural educational experience. She will also work to recruit students and to further strengthen relationships between the university and the local Latino community.