HALO event offers college, scholarship information





High school juniors and seniors from across southwest Kansas spent Friday at Garden City Community College learning about methods that will help them continue their educations after high school, as well as make choices to enhance opportunities for higher learning and the job market.

Students from Garden City, Holcomb, Scott City, Lakin, Hugoton, Sublette and Ulysses attended the 26th annual Hispanic Student Day, an event hosted by the Hispanic American Leadership Organization at GCCC.

HALO is a college student group that organizes leadership activities and events for students of all ethnic groups. Members also provide volunteer work throughout the community and in local schools.

The day included informative workshops, entertainment and a guest speaker featuring a GCCC graduate.

Kurt Peterson, who has been one of HALO's sponsors for about six years, said the purpose of Hispanic Student Day is to provide information about opportunities to go to college.

"Some people don't have the correct information about getting into college," he said. "Some people don't realize college is possible for them. They need to get information to know it is possible — information about federal financial aid, scholarships, and how to apply."

A group of Garden City High School girls found information presented about scholarship opportunities to be beneficial.

All four students, Jasmine Bluvan, Karina Soto-Villarreal, Liubisa Rivas and Sandi Pardo, are planning to attend GCCC for two years, followed by study at one of the state universities with goals of working in a medical field someday.

Soto-Villarreal, 18 and a senior. said the keynote speaker, Jessie Otero, provided her some motivation to work on applications for scholarships to Wichita State or Kansas State.

"I want to be a psychiatric nurse," she said.

Bluvan, 16, said she learned that there are scholarships for those interested in cheerleading or dance. Currently a junior, Bluvan is a cheerleader for GCHS and would like to be one during college. She plans to go to college at GCCC and K-State, and is considering a nursing career.

Pardo, 17, also a junior, plans to attend the University of Kansas after GCCC to study physical therapy. She also found the financial aid information helpful.

"I learned if you are involved in any activities and sports, it's possible to get a scholarship," she said.

Rivas, 17, a senior, who plans to study at KU or K-State after GCCC, said the main thing she took away from Friday's event is a lot of assistance is available for those who want to go to college.

"There are a lot of opportunities. There are a lot of colleges offering opportunities for scholarships," she said.

Rivas said she probably will major in pre-medicine but hasn't decide whether she wants to be a doctor or a nurse.

"But right now I'm taking CNA classes, which is a kind of option in the medical field for later on," she said.

The keynote speaker featured Jessie Otero, president of The Otero Corp., motivational speaker and former GCCC student. Otero, with more than 35 years of experience in the field of human services, founded The Otero Corp. in November 2007, a human/social services organization that provides services to people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

"One of the goals of Hispanic Student Day is to find folks that are successful who have gone to Garden City Community College. Not just anybody," Peterson said. "Because this is 'Hispanic' student day, we want to find former Hispanic students that have attended here, graduated, gone on to complete their bachelor's degree and are now successful people doing whatever."

Peterson said there are a lot of students in the area who will be among the first generations of their families to go to college, as well as a lot of professional career fields where Hispanics are underrepresented. Hopefully, that will change as more students realize college is attainable.

"When you consider that this is a community where 50 to 60 percent of our population is Hispanic, we need to have our college community reflect that, too. Our community college population, faculty and staff should reflect that," he said. "I want students to understand that they can get into college, that there's money available."

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