Sending a son or daughter off to college for the first time is a gut-wrenching experience for any parent, but that’s particularly true when the child is the first in your family to attend college. And a language barrier only adds to the anxiety.
That’s why Washington State University has offered a special Spanish language session during its mandatory student-parent orientation in summer. Now it’s doing even more, offering an all-Spanish orientation in May.
Why May? Many Spanish-speaking parents of incoming freshmen work in the agricultural industry, said Marcella Pattinson, coordinator for WSU Outreach and Undocumented Initiatives. Those parents often find it hard to leave work in July and August, when the harvest of many crops is in full swing.
La Bienvenida, the May orientation, was scheduled this past weekend, and will be offered to Spanish-speaking parents next May as well.
“It’s very tailored to their needs,” said Pattinson, covering workshops on financial aid, campus living options and student support services, with time for questions about dorm life, food plans and what a student should do if he or she gets sick.
WSU has a number of programs to reach out to Spanish-speaking students, whose numbers are growing rapidly in the K-12 system. The programs include a WSU-produced radio show on education that’s broadcast on Spanish-language radio stations throughout the state.
According to the state’s Educational Research & Data Center, the number of Hispanic students graduating from Washington high schools nearly doubled between 2005 and 2012. In 2012 — the most recent year for which data is available — about 18 percent enrolled in a four-year college, up from 15 percent in 2005.
Despite the small increase, the college-going rate for Hispanic students remains well below the state average. Statewide, about 32 percent of all high school graduates enrolled in a four-year school in 2012.