Hispanic College Fund, Making College a Reality
While many people are staunch supporters of the “bootstrap” motto, few could say that a helping hand, an inspiring mentor, or a friend with encouraging words didn’t lead to ultimate professional success. The Hispanic College Fund (HCF), based in Washington, DC, offers this support through a variety of ways, be it college preparation seminars for teens, university scholarships, internships, mentorships, and so much more. When HCF founders launched their innovative program 14 years ago, it was out of frustration at how few Latino students could afford to pursue the college degree that would eventually lead toward upward mobility. Program Manager, Jeanne Barrueta, tells us that this non-profit sees itself helping mold future leaders by supporting those pursuing degrees in business, science, engineering, technology and math. What she has found in response is that HCF alumni turn right around once those degrees are in-hand to donate what they can to further the Hispanic academic and professional cause, thus supporting the next generation of leaders. Learn more about the Hispanic College Fund in this week’s Non-Profit Spotlight and how your mentorship or financial contributions will be able to help thousands more achieve their dreams.
The Hispanic College Fund
Silver Spring, MD
University of Virginia
Darden School of Business
Hispanic College Fund
Hispanic College Fund
Tree Top Kids
Assistant Store Director
Mexican-American and Caucasian
About the non-profit
The Hispanic College Fund is the product of a dedicated group of Hispanic businessmen and women who were inspired to respond to the alarming growth in the number of talented Hispanic students who could not afford a college education. This call to action was precipitated by a compelling letter to the editor published in November 1990, in Hispanic Business magazine in which a student described his disillusionment in seeking financial aid from chief executive officers profiled in the magazine. Several concerned Hispanic CEOs who read the same letter responded by offering to help support the creation of the Hispanic College Fund.
In 1994 the Hispanic College Fund awarded $30,000 in scholarships to 14 Hispanic students on the business career track. Since then, the HCF Scholars program has expanded to awarding over $2 million every year to more than 600 students demonstrating financial need and pursuing degrees in business, science, engineering, technology and math.
With a passionate, energetic staff, extensive networks and dozens of partners the Hispanic College Fund has been able to expand on our scholarship program to provide more than just college funding to students. Since 2003, the Hispanic College Fund has developed highly effective college and career access programs for both high school and undergraduate students, including the rapidly expanding Hispanic Youth Symposia.
The Hispanic College Fund’s mission is to educate and develop the next generation of Hispanic professionals. We accomplish our mission by providing students with vision, resources, tools, and mentors through our programs which include the HCF Scholars Program, the Hispanic Youth Symposia, Latinos on the Fast Track (LOFT) and the Hispanic Young Professionals Program. Our programs focus on developing Latino youth who are pursuing undergraduate degrees in business, science, engineering, technology and math.
Our model provides a direct pathway from high school to college, from college to career, and career to giving back.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
As the Program Manager, my overall responsibility is to ensure that we are providing our students with the best resources and opportunities available so that they can develop into the leaders and professionals we know they can be.
My work is ever-changing – exactly why I love my job. Every part of the year is different depending on what’s going on with our programs, events or fundraising.
Year-round I manage our application technology, send out reports, train interns, keep in touch with students and work with my phenomenal colleagues in an open cubicle we affectionately call the Bull Pen or sometimes, the Gymboree. Together we run a $2.5 million scholarship program and the Hispanic Youth Symposium, a multi-city three day leadership program for high school students.
I also develop and maintain partnerships with other organizations and companies to give our scholars more access to mentorship, internships and other resources, all necessary for students to reach their personal, academic and professional goals.
Most notable milestones
It’s probably the day I decided to pick up the phone and called my close friend from high school who works in marketing at Google, Inc. Although the only thing I did was make the first phone call and pass information on to the development staff, I’m still proud. That phone call resulted in a $100,000 scholarship program.
What’s the niche?
The Hispanic College Fund is developing the next generation of Hispanic professionals. We have developed a simple, but powerful high school to college, college to career pathway. Students are inspired through our Hispanic Youth Symposium. They are motivated when they become HCF Scholars, and they succeed when we provide them with mentorship through our professional development programs and networks.
The key to our programs is that we not only provide scholarships, but also vision, mentorship and opportunities through our network of professionals, alumni and partners. Our programs focus (but not exclusively) on STEMB: science, technology, engineering, mathematics and business careers to encourage students to pursue careers which will up them on the leadership path. Our scholars and alumni will be closing the gap in the professional world, taking positions as executives, leading researchers, government leaders and innovators.
Corporations and government agencies recognize that not long from now half of the workforce will be Hispanic, but Hispanics are attaining college degrees at far worse rates than their white counterparts. An investment in the education and encouragement of a young aspiring Hispanic professional is an investment in the economic vitality of America.
What’s the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge for our organization is finding the right balance between what we want to do and what we can do. This is why we try to focus on our partnerships and our ability to leverage those relationships so that we can give our students what they need while staying focused on our mission.
For me, one of my biggest challenges is my youth. I look even younger than I am and when dealing with corporate folks it’s hard to make them see past that without being aggressive, highly confident or outspoken, none of which describe me.
What’s in store for the future?
I may be biased, but big things are in store for the Hispanic College Fund. HCF is growing at a fantastic rate. In just three years the staff has nearly doubled. Our Hispanic Youth Symposium has expanded from one city to four. In the past seven years the scholarship program has tripled in size.
Our staff is passionate, creative and bursting with energy. We will hold Hispanic Youth Symposia in 20 cities nationwide and hope to award $10 million in scholarships by 2010.
Best way to keep a competitive edge
Read the newspaper every day and make lots of friends. I don’t do either of these as much as I should, but if I did, I’d be a lot more successful.
Yardstick of success
I’ll be happy when I can take a four week vacation.
Goal yet to be achieved
I’m still working on figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. Although I’m passionate about my organization’s mission and I absolutely love my job, for some reason I’m still drawn to move on and go to graduate school. It may not be the right decision, but I hope eventually it will allow me to help the Hispanic College Fund and the Hispanic community in even bigger ways.
Best practical advice
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
–Courtesy of my father.
There are two people who I look to as mentors even if they don’t know it. Idalia Fernandez and George Cushman who are both leaders at the Hispanic College Fund. I may not directly seek advice from them, but in reality I’m always try to emulate their values, management practices and their ability to inspire others. I am completely in awe of them.
What motivated you to get started?
I was unemployed – I needed a job. Before I came to HCF I had no ambitions and I had no idea what to do after I graduated college. I was really lucky that the people at HCF took me in as part of the family. They gave me something to be passionate about.
Like best about what you do?
Most memorable moment at HCF was the day one of our recently graduated scholarship recipients flew into Washington, DC from Dallas and signed over his first pay check. It really hit home for me that what we’re doing is the right thing.
Like least about what you do?
By far the worst is declining applicants scholarship awards. One year I decided to calculate the total unmet need from the applicants to HCF who didn’t win scholarships. It was $30 million. That’s just the small subset of students who took the time to apply and took the time to send us their financial need information.
It’s so surprising how difficult it can be to raise funds for such an important cause which benefits not just the students, but our country as a whole.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Specifically at age 10 I wanted to be a scientist. We went to the Maryland Science Center on a class trip and we did an activity where we worked as a team working on a space voyage to the moon. For one half of the activity we acted as scientists on the ground, doing experiments with beakers and Bunsen burners, sending radio messages to the astronauts and monitoring the shuttle take off. The other half we were astronauts on the moon, but this part wasn’t nearly as fun (at least to me). All we did was stand around and pick up rocks.
The next day we had to draw pictures of what we wanted to be when we grew up. Most students drew themselves as astronauts, but I drew myself as a scientist. I remember one other kid laughed at me, because what 10-year-old doesn’t want to be an astronaut? I was really embarrassed and I never told anyone again that I wanted to be a scientist. Maybe that’s why I never became one…
What was your first job?
I worked at a Starbucks in a retirement community. Starbucks wasn’t as big then and the customers were generally confused by the menu and often asked “what’s a frapp-a-chino?” They just wanted a coffee.
In that same summer, I interned at a non-profit Hispanic organization in downtown DC. I was the receptionist, but I didn’t have a computer and the phone system had no transfer mechanism. I spent all day reading books except when the phone rang. I would have to put the caller on hold and yell down the hallway “Hey Juan! Phone is for you!” I was so bored I quit that job for the Starbucks gig full-time.
Biggest pastime outside of work? favorite hobby?
Work exhausts me. I spend most of my time vegetating in front of the TV or a movie with my friends. When I’m a little more energetic and have someone to go with, I love to play tennis really really badly.
Leader in business most interested in meeting?
I’d love to meet Bill Gates because I’m pretty sure I know more about the various tricks and tools in MS Word and MS Excel than he does.
Three interesting facts about yourself
- I’m birthday buddies with Cesar Chavez
- I’m half Jewish-American and half Mexican-American so I celebrated both Chanukah and Christmas, but I’m not fluent in Spanish or Hebrew.
- I worked at a toy store for one year.
Three characteristics that describe you
I took a personality test so I know the answer to this question:
Three greatest passions
I have a hard time figuring this out on a grander scale. Definitely my relationships with my friends and family.
Favorite book? show? movie? song? (choose 1 or more)
This is embarrassing, but I still hold a special place in my heart for all those movies I loved as a child, and most of my friends and family can tell you some funny stories about me in that regard. I think I love the Muppet movies most of all. In fact, I quoted “The Muppet Movie” in one of business school application essays – I didn’t get into that school. I guess the corporate folk don’t appreciate the Muppets.
Education without a doubt. The whole system needs an overhaul. I’m always so frustrated when I hear another statistic about the poor education students are getting from so many struggling high schools.
If you could work any where else, what would you be doing?
If I had the talent and creativity I would have loved to be a photographer or cinematographer.
Who would you like to be contacted by?
Any of the fortune 500 company CEOs who don’t know what to do with all those extra profits can give me a call any time.
High school and college students who are looking for help with college admissions, financial aid or internships should also call. I’m always happy to help.
Interview by Alexander Grant
Introduction by Sara Ortega
Edited by Valerie Enriquez