Jóvenes Adelante Offers Career Workshops
By Rosa Elena Hernández Mancilla
Since it was founded in 2001, Jóvenes Adelante has helped more than 200 students to obtain a university education. More than 100 have graduated and are now either working in their chosen fields (including engineering, law, education, accounting, computer science) or continuing their studies. Currently, 79 Jóvenes scholarship students are studying at 23 university campuses throughout Mexico. Six more will graduate in 2014, and another 26 will graduate in 2015.
“While scholarships are the single largest undertaking we make each year, we do much, much more to ensure the success of our students and to help those who don’t receive a scholarship,” said president Sue Leonard. “Many people do not realize that the graduation rate for students entering Mexican universities is shockingly low, variously estimated at between 18 and 36 percent. In contrast, the graduation rate of Jovenes-sponsored students is 85 percent, which is quite remarkable considering that all of them come from very low-income families,” she concluded.
When asked what accounts for Jóvenes’ success in keeping students in school and graduating, she stated that much of the credit goes to the students themselves, who are highly motivated and have a true zeal for knowledge and learning. But, she added, “Even the best and the brightest need a helping hand, especially as many of our students are the first in their families to attend university, and much of what they encounter is completely new.”
So, in addition to cash scholarships and a laptop computer for every scholarship student, Jóvenes provides a robust support system to equip them to meet the challenges that they face and to give them a helping hand when those challenges become overwhelming. These services include training in career building skills; tutoring in English and other subjects; professional counseling to deal with difficulties in school, family, or health; and mentors. In a recent survey of Jóvenes graduates, many attributed their professional success and personal confidence to having had the support and friendship of their Jóvenes Adelante mentor throughout their university career.
According to Leonard, Jóvenes’ effort on behalf of the students doesn’t stop when they graduate. Jóvenes offers continuing workshops in skills needed to assure professional success beyond university and help students who are still in high school.
An example of the latter is a series of workshops that Jóvenes Student Programs Coordinator Rosy Hernandez delivered very recently to more than 250 students at various high schools throughout San Miguel, including Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, Juan José de los Reyes Martínez “El Pípila,” CBTIS No. 60, and Videobachilleratos.
Hernández explains that the objective of the workshops was to guide students to understand how their career and academic interests align with the available university options and to explain how to apply for scholarships from Jóvenes Adelante. Many students do not know the full range of career possibilities and pick a field of study because a family member or friend is in that field. “We administer a self-scoring aptitude test to the students to determine what fields of study and careers best suit their interests and abilities. From the results, we advise the students on which universities might be best for that particular career focus. This type of career guidance is hardly ever available in the high schools in San Miguel.”