United Community Center
Press Release

The United Community Center Earns Another College Success Grant from Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation

Continued Funding Sustains Successful Programs That Boost Retention and Completion Rates

By - Oct 31st, 2014 10:48 am

Milwaukee, Wisconsin – The remarkable outcomes of the Abriendo Puertas (“Opening Doors”) program last year has earned the United Community Center (UCC) a College Success continuation grant from Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation. During the 2014-2015 academic year, a $189,715 grant will provide tutoring, advising, mentoring, and counseling – services proven to help at-risk students stay on track to graduate.

UCC was one of 16 organizations invited by Great Lakes to build upon its success in strengthening students’ connections with their campus, peers, faculty, and staff. Simply showing up for class is not enough to guarantee success. Many traditionally underserved students – those from low-income households, students of color, and students who are first in their families to attend college – need specialized help to overcome academic, social, and financial obstacles and progress to college completion.

In collaboration with the Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee, UCC’s Abriendo Puertas Program will help support 110 undergraduate students from traditionally underserved backgrounds in maximizing academic and social integration, goal setting, and commitment to achieving goals in a culturally relevant manner in order to remain in and complete college. The program services will be individualized and designed to empower Latino students to overcome obstacles and persist through institutions of higher education.

“Moving students toward greater opportunity in life benefits us all,” said Richard D. George, Great Lakes’ president and chief executive officer. “We fund programs that understand the root cause of what holds students back, and take bold steps to overcome these obstacles. We look forward to seeing the impact UCC can have on helping more students graduate and achieve their full potential.”

“With this second College Success grant, UCC can expand the talent pool of young Hispanics successfully completing college degrees, becoming quality job candidates of choice for employers, and commencing rewarding and successful careers. We are dedicated to building and sustaining the community through programs rooted in traditional values of perseverance, educational advancement, and personal betterment. The aim is to perpetuate the realization of the American Dream to a new, more diverse generation,” said Ricardo Diaz, Executive Director of the United Community Center.

UCC’s Abriendo Puertas program received a Great Lakes College Success grant in August 2013. Under that grant, 18 more students overcame obstacles to college completion, and 96% of eligible students persisted and reenrolled within institutions of higher education during the fall 2014 semester. UCC will enhance Abriendo Puertas for even greater results in keeping students enrolled and on track academically, socially, and financially.

The United Community Center was established in 1970.  It is a nonprofit, community-based agency that provides a range of programs and services to generations of Latinos of all ages in Milwaukee’s near Southside. UCC has had profound success in the college retention and persistence of low-income first generation Latino students served through the Abriendo Puertas program. Over the past two years, the program has served 196 students attending 14 different Wisconsin higher education institutions, 87% of students enrolled in 12 or more credits had grade point averages equal to or greater than a 2.0. In addition, 86% completed 100% of all attempted credits. The program has graduated 33 members and maintained retention and persistence rates of 96%. Over 80 students have also benefited from internship and/or job placement as a result of the program as well.

Abriendo Puertas students are persevering through college with great success as they create a more clear vision of their long-term academic and career goals, obtain a better understanding of the expectations and soft skills to be successful in a company, and utilize support networks geared at maximizing student time and resources in college in order to launch successful professional careers.

Great Lakes College Success continuation grants totaling $2.7 million were awarded to two-year, four-year, and technical colleges in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. A total of 3,835 undergraduate students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, and students who are first in their family to attend college will benefit from support services during the 2014-2015 academic year. This grant is just one way Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates works to achieve its goal of helping more students benefit from their investment in higher education, and graduate ready to reach their full potential.

About United Community Center:

The United Community Center (UCC) provides programs to Hispanics and near South side residents of all races and ages in education, cultural arts, recreation, community development and health and human services in an effort to help individuals achieve their potential by focusing on cultural heritage as a means of personal development.

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