Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone strives to attract Latinos: Access issues may deter potential students

By Barry Shatzman, Staff writer.

Monday, August 29 , 2005—Reprinted from The Daily Review.

Fremont—For two years now, Ohlone College has been searching for the reasons that Latinos are underrepresented among its student population. A good starting point might be one of its own courses.

In his Chicano culture class, professor Mark Salinas will delve into the subject, talking about how Latinos have helped shape the United States and the Southwest. And also how the area has shaped Latinos. The class is one of several the college is offering in its 15-week semester that starts Sept. 6.

Latinos represent just 11 percent of Ohlone students, while making up 17 percent of the area's population.

For Salinas, the problem begins with identity. His classes also begin with a discussion of identity, talking about the terms "Latino" and "Chicano," which often are used interchangeably but have different roots and meanings.

But students from early grades on learn that they are "Hispanic"—a government-imposed term that merely provides a convenient label for anyone of Spanish descent, he said.

A Latino child's journey through the public school system often follows a track that doesn't lead to a college education, said Salinas, who has a master's degree in education. He points to the subject matter geared more toward the experiences of white Americans, the rejection of bilingual education programs, and the disproportionate number of non-Latinos in leadership positions.

"Everywhere white people go, they see themselves represented as administrators and other officials," he said, adding that Latino children have far fewer models for such roles.

Not everyone at Ohlone fully agrees that the problem is one of culture. Pointing to Chabot College—where more than a fifth of the students are Latino—Ohlone Director of Admissions Ron Travenick said that other causes for low Latino enrollment need to be examined.

"I find it difficult to believe that for cultural reasons (higher education) is being ignored," Travenick said.

Both Travenick and Salinas agree, however, that outreach programs directed toward high school students are a key to solving the problem. One such program, at Union City's James Logan High School, is linked to Chabot, Travenick said. Logan students are divided among the districts that house Chabot and Ohlone. Travenick said he would like to have a mirror program at Logan that would be linked to Ohlone, as well as a similar program at Newark Memorial High School.

Ohlone also needs to become more accessible to the Spanish-speaking population, Travenick said. The college's Web site contains financial aid materials in Spanish, but there is no link to the material on the front page.

For information on how to register for classes that begin Sept. 6, including the Chicano culture class, which will be on Wednesday nights, visit http://www.ohlone.edu.

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