Esperanza awarded its first college scholarship in 1983 and has since set out to improve the academic achievement of Latinos in Metro Cleveland by supporting students to graduate high school and promoting post-secondary educational attainment.
“Our board wanted to create a legacy project that positioned the organization for long term sustainability, said Victor Ruiz, Esperanza executive director. “We realized that there were thousands of Hispanics in the greater Cleveland area that were positively impacted by our programs and scholarships. We also realized that we needed to engage those alumni in meaningful and sustained ways.”
Esperanza’s role in the community has evolved over the years well beyond awarding scholarships to deserving Latino students. The organization added a dropout prevention program in 1989. The organization has advocated for policy changes to benefit Latino students in the Cleveland Public Schools and elsewhere, as well as served as a link between community leaders, agencies, and schools to help students overcome barriers to education and ensure they receive a quality education.
“The alumni association is another piece in our efforts of continuing to grow and provide services for many more years,” explained Ruiz. “Our alumni will serve as the mentors, volunteers, donors, board members, advocates that we need to successfully run and grow our organization.”
There are plenty of Esperanza alumni to draw from. The organization has awarded scholarships to over 1,200 students over the past three decades and provided direct services to thousands of additional students and their families. The nonprofit group has even hired an Alumni Association Coordinator to oversee the effort.
“She has been holding a series of informational meetings with alumni and is in the process of creating an alumni association Executive Committee, whose role will be to create year-long engagement opportunities for Alumni,” said Ruiz.
The Esperanza executive director called the alumni association a “legacy project” on the part of the agency’s board of directors. It’s also an opportunity for past scholarship recipients to “pay it forward” to help future generations of Latino students—through contributions to scholarship funds, helping students to succeed in school, or showing them the pathways to personal and professional success.
When a student joins Esperanza, he or she can participate in any number of academic, mentoring, or leadership programs. It starts with the completion of an Individual Service Strategy (ISS), in which their current school performance and career goals are analyzed and an action plan is established. That, in turn, may lead to tutoring, mentoring, Saturday Academy college visits, preparation for the Ohio Graduation Test, and daily afterschool leadership classes.
The alumni event is being billed as a celebration of the past year and excitement for the opportunities ahead. The event will feature hors d’oeuvres, valet parking, and live music by Son Gitano. Tickets are $50 per person/$90 per couple and can be purchased by calling 216.651.7178 or visiting www.esperanzainc.org/family.