New mentor program offered to Latino students

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HAMPTON, Iowa (AP) — It's not every day that your middle school principal visits you at home.

Hampton-Dumont Middle School Principal Tony Spradlin recently visited the homes of Alex Van Cleave and Pedro Castillo, both in eighth grade; and Daniel Sanchez Garcia, seventh grade.

None of the boys were in trouble. Spradlin wanted to introduce himself to their parents because he is serving as their mentor through a new program being offered for seventh and eighth students called Al Éxito (to success.)

"It's fun to be able to hang out with them," Spradlin told the Mason City Globe Gazette ( ).

Al Éxito is a statewide program which targets Latino students and provides support through mentors, programs and leadership training.

The organization started in Marshalltown in 2006-2007 as an Iowa American Association of University Women (AAUW) project to provide Latino students with support. The program spread from there, including into the Belmond-Klemme and Clarion-Goldfield-Dows school districts.

In 2009, Al Éxito became a non-profit organization.

This fall is the first year Al Éxito is being offered for Hampton-Dumont seventh and eighth-grade students.

"I'm really excited," said Dawn Martinez Oropeza, executive director of Al Éxito, about the program expansion into Hampton-Dumont.

Site coordinater Valeria Gonzalez said 44 students attended an informational meeting in October and 25 have turned in permission slips. Another seven are showing interest.

"To me it's an overwhelming response," she said. "They're excited there's a program just for Latinos."

While Al Éxito targets Latino students, it's open to anyone. Two of Hampton-Dumont's participants aren't Latino, said Gonzalez, who is also a bilingual enrollment adviser for North Iowa Area Community College.

In addition to a kickoff, a family festival was held in November. Only five families attended, but Gonzalez said that was expected since they're just getting started.

Twenty-three students also went on a tour of NIACC on Dec. 1.

"It was fun," Alex said about the visit.

Daniel said he liked visiting the NIACC farm and seeing the rest of campus.

Gonzalez said the goal is to get students on a college campus at least twice a year so students start thinking about future plans.

They plan to go to Iowa State University in March. Both she and Spradlin said students are already excited about visiting ISU.

Al Éxito will also meet once a month with different topics each time. For example, next month will be about civic engagement and likely include Hampton Mayor Brook Boehmler. February will include vision boards.

"If you have a vision of your goals you can make it happen," Gonzalez said.

Mentors are encouraged to attend the meetings if possible and check in with and spend time with mentees throughout the month. Mentors are also encouraged to talk about the student's goals, interests and what they might want to do beyond high school, Gonzalez said.

Spradlin said he was happy to become a mentor.

"I just know how it is when these students come and they don't have any friends," he said. "Their parents maybe know a few people. I feel like me being a mentor I can help them build some relationships with other people in the community."

Gonzalez said she is still looking for mentors, especially Latino ones. Anyone can be a mentor; however, they must undergo a background check.


Information from: Globe Gazette,

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the Mason City Globe Gazette

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