For Esther Bonilla, completing her Associates degree is an accomplishment she has wanted for a long time. She moved from Puerto Rico at age 10 when her family lost everything in a category-3 hurricane. Bonilla said she was ridiculed for not being able to speak English and praised her elementary school teacher who took time to help her learn. She now plans to attend Kent State University and major in Mass Communications with the hopes of accomplishing something so great it changes lives of many for the better. Her journey was hardly smooth sailing, her dream of attending a large university after graduation Lincoln West High School was shattered when the reality of cost made it impossible.
“When I found out I cried for days,” she said. Realizing that was not a solution she turned to her favorite helper, Google. “That is when I found Tri-C,” Bonilla said, and she promptly enrolled only to drop out to support her family with a full time job. She returned several years later after a pastor in the community encouraged her and soon she found herself excelling.
“I really liked this feeling of getting all A’s,” she said. Her gratitude poured through her words as she profusely thanked the sponsors who made her education possible. She beamed and held up her most recent accomplishment, “My picture on the fall schedule catalog!”
Jorge Cuevas’s journey is reminiscent of the sacrifices one makes for family. He moved from Guadalajara, Mexico to Kansas to attend the state university and met and married his wife. Circumstances forced them to drop out and eventually Cuevas encouraged his wife to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a doctor while he supported her financially.
Her success led them both to Cleveland through the Cleveland Clinic where she now works, and Jorge Cuevas found himself struggling to find a job. “We decided it was time for me to go back and finish my degree,” he said. Jorge Cuevas praised the faculty’s support and commitment to helping students.
Jorge is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Information Systems and Technology at Cleveland State University and said scholarships are more than just financial support. “They are also moral support for recipients and their families, I think of how many possible great doctors or engineers are out there who never made it because they couldn’t find the support,” he said.
Supporters like AT&T, a major partner with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, which donated a check of $50,000 to Tri-C at the ceremony to express their continued support and commitment to the community and an investment in their future workforce. Other supporters included: KeyBank, Pepsi Beverages Company, Bernie Moreno, and Oscar F. Villarreal; Family Foundation allows Tri-C’s Hispanic Council to select deserving students for scholarship awards which totaled $35,000 in scholarships for the 2012-13 academic year.
The Hispanic Council, which began in 1992, advises the College on Latino issues and serves as a liaison between the College and the Greater Cleveland Latino community. The Council also offers bilingual assistance with admissions and registration, financial aid, student visas, and scholarship opportunities, connecting Hispanics with Tri-C programs, services, faculty and staff.
Kraft said the commitment to Latino students is continually strengthened each year, and as the refugee population in Cleveland increases the college will reach out to more language specialists to ensure those new communities and their needs for college attainment are also met.
Tri-C has the second largest undergraduate enrollment of Latino students in the state of Ohio, with more than 1,000 Latino students enrolled during the 2011-2012 academic year.