Central Washington University has experienced a 169-percent increase in its Hispanic enrollment over the past five years, an upward trend that will continue next year. A number of those students will receive their degrees during the university’s Ellensburg commencement exercises on Saturday, June 8. Pablo Gonzalez, from Zillah, is among them.
“What attracted me to Central was the great location, beautiful campus, it was close to home, and affordable,” he said. “It was a simple decision.”
It’s been a whirlwind four years for Gonzalez who said, about his impending graduation, “This is just the beginning. It feels great to be able to apply what I’ve learned at Central, go forward, become established in my community, and be a contributing member of society.”
Gonzalez credits the university’s College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) for helping him to get off to a good start in his college studies.
“CAMP helped me transition from never thinking about going to college to getting into college my first year,” he said. “It was a great resource to ask questions and feel comfortable about being on campus. The staff helped me plan my classes and to graduate on time.”
CAMP predominantly serves freshman students from migrant and seasonal farm working backgrounds. The federally funded program is designed to help students succeed at the outset of their college careers. CAMP students are eligible for a variety of services, such as academic assistance, career planning, cultural enrichment opportunities, financial support, mentoring, and is a connection to additional campus resources.
Sixty-three students enrolled at CWU last fall with the help of with CAMP. Potentially, even more students could comprise next fall’s class.
“These [incoming students] are probably the most interested we’ve worked with,” said CAMP Director Miriam Bocchetti. “It’s also the largest number of eligible students to date.”
Bocchetti added, “While we work primarily with first-year freshman, about 10 percent of our time and effort goes to assist non-first-year students.” That includes some additional academic advising and the annual recognition banquet for graduating seniors.
Gonzalez is just one of 22 CAMP students that will receive their diplomas next week.
Admittedly always interested in politics, Gonzalez will graduate with a bachelor of arts in political science, with a minor in communication.
“I just thought it was the right path,” he said. “I really feel that I can help people learn how the government works and become more knowledgeable.”
Gonzalez put his studies to use last year, in his bid to become the state representative from the 15th Legislative District. Although unsuccessful, he said it was a fun learning experience. Though it’s not in his near-term plans, Gonzalez is not ruling out another bid for elective office “some day.” In the meantime, he will remain involved in the political process.
“Since I was one of the first [Latinos] that ran there, I feel I have a responsibility to be a resource for people that do want to [run for office],” he added.
While at CWU, he also traveled to Central America with the university’s Cross Cultural Leadership Program.
“We decided to go to El Salvador to deliver stoves to a poverty-stricken community that was suffering breathing problems because they would have to cook inside their houses,” he said. “The stoves reduced emissions and really helped their community.”
In addition, Gonzalez twice presented his political research, on the North American Free Trade Agreement and on income inequality, at the National Technology and Social Science Conference in Las Vegas.
Media contact: Robert Lowery, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-1487, firstname.lastname@example.org
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