Latino teens see college benefits at Barsema

Dean Denise Schoenbachler (right) and Joan Petros, director of the Experiential Learning Center, prepare for a visit from Latino high school students.

Dean Denise Schoenbachler (right) and Joan Petros, director of the Experiential Learning Center, prepare for a visit from Latino high school students.

A group of 40 inner-city high school students visited NIU Monday to glimpse the possibilities that college could provide.

The day included a question-and-answer session with NIU College of Business Dean Denise Schoenbachler, a chance to speak with admissions counselors and financial aid experts and even a few words of welcome from NIU President Doug Baker.

Monday’s visit was part of a month-long program, which operated by the National Society of Hispanic MBAs to encourage promising Latino students to pursue a college degree.

The students, sophomores and juniors from Chicago high schools, all boast grade point averages of 3.0 or better. Students enrolled in the program attend classes four days a week at DePaul University. Coursework introduces them to basic business principles and teaches them communication, networking and financial management skills.

The program also devotes a significant amount of time to walking students through the process of selecting and applying to college, including how to seek financial aid.

As part of the program, students visit several colleges in Chicago; for the last three years, the group has traveled to DeKalb to learn about NIU.

New NIU President Doug Baker hears about College of Business programs during a tour of Barsema Hall.

New NIU President Doug Baker hears about College of Business programs during a tour of Barsema Hall.

Schoenbachler is excited to be part of the program.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for these high performing students to get a look at all that we have to offer, and for us to show them that NIU can be a good fit for them,” said Schoenbachler, noting the university’s experience in dealing with first-generation students. “Many of these students don’t have mentors, role models or family members who have gone to college. We try to help them understand that this is something they can accomplish.”

Helping them do so is an important part of NIU’s mission, Baker said: “Providing access to higher education to underrepresented groups is an important part of our mission to help move society forward.”

Management professor Terry Bishop, who spent the morning with the students, was impressed.

“I would love to have a class full of these students,” Bishop said. “They were focused, serious-minded, asked great questions and had an appreciation for the importance of things like building a network. They seemed to recognize the value of this program and were determined to get the most out of it. This is a group of students determined to succeed.”

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