LU establishes Hispanic Mentorship Program to support and build community for Hispanic, Latino students on campus

The Lamar University Division of Student Engagement has established the LU Hispanic Mentorship program that aims to pair LU Hispanic and Latino students with a mentor to serve as an additional resource outside of an academic setting.

“The idea is to be a reflection of the community and our goal with this program is to bridge the gap for our Hispanic and Latino students here at Lamar University,” said Hector Flores, dean of students. “We want to provide them with a sense of direction while they’re in college, connect them to the community and be that sounding board that motivates them to continue on their journey.”

Comprised of 25 members, LU Hispanic Mentors provide support, mentorship and guidance for current and potential Hispanic and Latino students seeking to improve their lives through education. The group also strives to bring awareness and appreciation to Lamar University culture, ethnic and societal contributions as Hispanic and Latino people. 

L-R: Dr. Victor Davila, Adrian Sias, Jacqueline Hernandez, Dr. Hector Flores and Tony Sanchez

“The LU Hispanic Mentors are a group of Hispanic and Latino professionals comprised of faculty, staff, alumni and community leaders,” Flores said. “We’re bringing in key leaders from the community that our students can connect to and we’re all from varying backgrounds. Students can see our faces and see themselves reflected and the community is bolstering that.”

Flores, a Houston native, stated he knows all too well the importance of having representation in the Hispanic and Latino community. “Growing up in different parts of Houston, a lot of times, we were the only Hispanic family around, so it’s tough when you don’t have that representation. I know where our students are coming from, I know the pitfalls and the things that they should look out for,” he said. “I also know where they’re at and where they could be if they maximize their potential. That’s my job as a mentor –– to get them where they need to be.”

Transformative, instructional and cultivating. Those are the words that several LU Hispanic Mentors used to describe the impact that the program will have on Hispanic and Latino students at Lamar University.

“I had a mentor when I was in college, but I didn’t realize how big of a difference she made in my collegiate journey until we met,” said LU Hispanic Mentor Jacqueline Hernandez, a local business owner and community organizer. “I didn’t realize what I was missing, but it truly made such a huge difference and I keep in contact with my mentor to this day. Now, I serve as a mentor outside of this program and I can’t tell you how rewarding it is for me.”

Tony Sanchez, vice president of Human Resources and Talent Management at LU, also is among the 25 LU Hispanic Mentors and said that his participation in the program is his way of giving back. “The reason that we’re in higher education is because we want to help the community. I’m a first-generation student and I didn’t have anyone to help me when I went to college. Those of us that have been through the college experience know that it’s really helpful to have someone who’s been there and understands the difficulty of adjusting,” Sanchez said. “To have someone that you can relate to say ‘hey, I know it’s tough, but you will get through it if you hang in there,’ it means everything.”

LU Hispanic Mentor Victor Davila, executive director of Retention and Student Services at LU, is also a co-founder of the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Institution Educators and has served as a founding Vice-President, VP of Finance and Governance for the organization. He also facilitates HSI-Title V workshops on budget programs and management. “This designation will benefit our Black students as well because HSI institutions graduate the second most Black students outside of historically Black colleges and universities,” Davila said. “The more diverse your population is, the more successful the university will grow as a community.”

According to recent enrollment data posted to the university’s website, approximately 20.97% of the Lamar University student population is Hispanic. Flores said the mentorship program will help bolster the institution’s efforts to become a designated Hispanic Serving Institution. “Receiving an HSI designation will be beneficial for not only Hispanic students here at LU, but all students because it also increases graduation rates. We’re excited to get the students involved and to show them that there is a Hispanic community here for them. Once we get past that 25% HSI threshold, we’ll really be able to get the ball rolling.”

The program is currently working with two non-profit organizations –– the Hispanic Proactive Coalition and Unidad –– to stay connected to the Hispanic community in Southeast Texas. Flores said this is just one of the many steps that the program will take to ensure that Hispanic and Latino students are supported.

“It’s not just one person that’s going to make this happen for us, it’s an entire community. If you had the courage to come here to the university and embark on this journey, that’s a big step. Your next step could be talking to a mentor,” Flores said. Students can visit the LU Hispanic Mentorship website and choose a mentor based upon their own interests or background. “This is our way of allowing our students to choose the mentor that they feel most connected to. We really want our students to tap into the experience because we are a community and we’re to help them every step of the way.”