Stories of Service: Virginia Latino Higher Education Network

Congratulations to Virginia Latino Higher Education Network of Weems – winner of the 2019 Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Award for Outstanding Community Organization! The Virginia Latino Higher Education Network (VALHEN) is a positive catalyst in the lives of hundreds of Virginia’s Hispanic students. VALHEN is the only state-wide, volunteer-driven, nonprofit which supports, promotes, and advocates for Latino success and advancement in higher education, to ensure that every Hispanic/Latino in Virginia is college and career ready. VALHEN has shown remarkable success through its four programs: the Hispanic College Institute, the Scholarship Program; the Lecture Series, and the annual Encuentro meeting of the membership and partners.  All of these programs are operated by a highly motivated team of volunteers.

Their largest program, the Hispanic College Institute, offers students an intense five-day, camp-like experience focusing on college preparation and inspiration. The results for these students is nothing short of transformational – motivating and preparing them to further their education and attend college. More than 55-60 program alums who have enrolled in college after experience the program come back to work as Familia LEADs, mentoring the high school students who are assigned a “familia” when they arrive at Hispanic College Institute. In 2015, the Hispanic College Institute was recognized by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics as one of only 220 “Bright Spots” in Hispanic Education across the country.

As the only program of its kind in Virginia, VALHEN’s programs provide students with the tools needed to research colleges and careers, gain exposure to careers in the STEM field, complete a college application, and fill out the FAFSA. Year after year, Virginia’s Hispanic/Latino students develop a fresh energy and excitement about furthering their education. They receive the practical tools they need to make their college dreams a reality. Additionally, the positive relationships they develop with the adults and college students who serve as mentors give them the network of support.

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