WEST GROVE, PA — LCH Health and Community Services recently celebrated the graduation of ten Avon Grove High School seniors who participated in LCH’s Escalera program, a program championed by national Latino advocacy organization UnidosUS. This free after school program, targeted to high school juniors and seniors, provides sessions that focus on college preparation, exploration of career and educational paths, and support throughout the college application process. This program was made possible with financial support from UnidosUS, West Pharmaceutical Services, and several area Friends Meetings.
“We are thrilled to celebrate the graduation of our first Escalera cohort,” said Ronan Gannon, LCH’s Chief Executive Officer. “This program addresses several of the social determinants of health for the families we serve, such as income and education level. These factors have such a powerful impact on health.”
The program is led by LCH Instructor Lorena Baeza and LCH Outreach and Education Coordinator Norma Diego-Flores. Despite the limitations of the pandemic, the program was able to stay connected with students throughout the entire school year. “COVID-19 definitely brought challenges,” said Gannon. “We transitioned to virtual sessions, and our annual family STEM night transitioned to virtual sessions as well. We had to do individual visits to our students’ homes to celebrate their graduation in place of a large gathering. Despite the challenges, the students did an amazing job. We were able to keep everyone connected and motivated in thinking about their future career paths.”
The program especially encourages exploration of STEM career paths. Throughout the year, Escalera hosted several guest speakers to talk about careers in STEM, from healthcare to engineering to information technology. During the winter, students prepared and presented STEM activities, including a video demonstration on how to make a homemade lava lamp. “We had several students who are now planning to pursue a career in STEM as they go on to college, thanks to making these connections in the program,” said Gannon.
Below are reflections from the 2021 Escalera cohort. The students in the cohort will be attending the following schools this fall: Goldey-Beacom College, Neumann University, West Chester University, ATC Automotive Training Center, West Chester University, University of Pittsburgh, Millersville University, and Penn State Brandywine. LCH is currently serving a second cohort of students at Avon Grove High School who will begin their senior year in the fall. LCH has also been funded by UnidosUS to launch a third cohort of new juniors. For interested students that will be juniors in Avon Grove High School this fall, please connect with Norma Diego-Flores (610) 444-7550 X247 or visit LCHcommunityhealth.org/Escalera to learn more about this program.
Reflections from Escalera Students class of 2021
Ketsali Arizmendi – Cordova: “Being in Escalera taught me the importance of focusing in school, having goals, and always to try my best in my classes. It also taught me important information for college like loans, debt, budgeting, time management, choosing classes, and choosing the best option for me. I am glad I was able to be in this group. I received help in many ways. And I have great memories to take from this program.”
Ulises Arroyo: “I really liked the help we got, not just from the beneficial lessons that were taught but also the support. Our instructors were there for us and did their best to try to lead us to be successful human beings.”
Sara Fonseca: “My experience with Escalera has been unforgettable. As the oldest in my family, I have been part of many firsts, so my parents and I had to learn about many things as they happened. Being part of Escalera has helped us a lot, especially with the college application process. I have also been able to learn many life skills and lessons that I will continue to use in the future. Escalera has become a nice little community that has made a nice impact on my life and who have been there when I needed them.”
Raudayh Lemus: “Due to the unfortunate pandemic, it did make our meetings limited and changed everything, but it still felt fun even if it was all on Zoom. You still helped all of us with FAFSA applications, helping us see various careers, finding and helping with decisions on a college or trade school. The program helped me and others to finally decide where we wanted to go and why.”
Nancy Castaño: “I was worried because I had no idea what I needed to do to apply to college and I hadn’t gone on any college visits. My friend told me that in Escalera they could help us through the process, so I joined. I felt very welcomed and everyone was so nice. I would look forward to going every Monday.”
Maria Hernandez: “This program has allowed me to grow as a person and flourish immensely. I enjoyed the warmth of the instructors. The way the lessons were shown allowed me to understand the technicalities of how to become a successful prospective college student. I cannot put into words how much Escalera has helped me throughout the college application process and just life as a whole.”
Joseline Ayala Escobar: “I have been able to learn more about my culture and advance academically in the supportive environment that Escalera offers. I would highly encourage other students to join this program because it truly helps prepare for academic success after high school.”
Brian Luna: “I liked the teachers, the activities we did and the information we were being taught because it all opened my eyes to many different career paths. At first, I was going to apply at Delaware County Community College for two years than transfer to West Chester University. After thinking through that decision, I ended up deciding to join the work force instead. I plan to become a real estate agent now due to my interest in real estate, investments, and the idea of entrepreneurship.”
Oliver Lopez: “Escalera is a good after school program to join for kids who are seeking guidance in their post high school lives. One thing I’ve really enjoyed about Escalera is that it showed me that there were many topics and important lessons to learn, such as the importance of budgeting and your life needs.”
Alexis Cordava: “Escalera has helped me tremendously…how to apply for scholarships, different colleges, all of the application processes and many life lessons. I have learned a lot. Thank you, Escalera!”
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