BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – Educators in Colorado are looking for more ways to help young Latina women get to college and bridge the Latina achievement gap. The Latina Achievement Support Program is a major part of the mission of the YWCA of Boulder to erase racism and empower women.

The group of high school girls meet weekly to work on their college applications, scholarship entries, and resumes. The girls also work on coding at Google, visit college campuses, and help each other achieve their full potential.

“It has helped me develop more of my skills, and speaking up to people for help and asking them to help me,” said Stephanie Herrera, a senior in high school.

The group has grown to become an in-depth program involving mentorship and a support network for young Latina women that continues beyond high school.

For students like Penelope Sanches, now a first generation college student at the University of Colorado Boulder, the support program helped her find the pathway she never had.

“I don’t have parents that went to college, so being a first generation student I don’t have a clear pathway to how everything would work, how I would have got into college, and how to be successful now that I’m there.”

(credit: CBS)

Sanches is working to become a teacher and says the advice she received through the program was definitely helpful as college was not always in the cards for her, and she didn’t start thinking about it seriously until high school.

“For Latina women, there’s not really a good representation of us in higher education, so just not having that like… example, I guess, to look at is hard to have.”

She is now graduated from the YWCA program, but still comes back to mentor and is helping the next class of girls see the path to their dreams.

“I knew how beneficial this program was to me in terms of just getting to college, and learning all those skills, and things that I learned in this program, and now applying them at college.”

Some of the girls mention wanting to attend CU Boulder and pursue careers in political science and criminal justice.

(credit: CBS)

From there it just continues from class to class and from generation to generation.

Herrera cites setting a good example for her sister as motivation.

“I’ve always known I wanted to go to college, especially because I have a younger sister. That motivates me to keep going so she can also continue and go to college.”

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The Latina Achievement Support Program was established to help young women break down barriers and the achievement gap… and it’s working. YWCA CEO Debbie Pope says that in 2017, 100 percent of the young woman who graduated from this program went on to post-secondary school.

Sanches’ success through the program is proof of that, and she says it feels good knowing she’s making an impact by giving back to the program and mentoring the next class.

“More people of color are low income first generation, so I think that with more resources and more opportunities that are given to people of color, specifically young Latina women, that would close that achievement gap.”

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