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Six-week series teaches families school success and career readiness



MIKAYLA MILLS - Juntos participants Jocella, Jasmin, Melissa Terrazas and Maria Terrazas gather weekly at Crook County High School.

When the mother of a local Latino freshman was asked what she thought of her daughter’s plans to study law, her face lit up with a bright smile, and she said, “Fantástico!”

Melissa Terrazas goes to Crook County High School and is part of the Oregon State University Open Campus Juntos Program.

Juntos, meaning “together” in Spanish, is a free family program designed to support Latino students and parents with school success and career readiness.

Terrazas has attended the weekly Monday evening meetings since April 4, when the program debuted in Prineville at CCHS.

She interpreted for her mother, Maria Terrazas, about her thoughts on the program. “It’s giving her more knowledge of what is getting offered to Hispanics and what’s going on with them in school.”

Although the freshman doesn’t know where she wants to go to college, she knows she wants to study law. Her mother is very supportive of her plans.

And that’s what Juntos is all about.

Juntos works to empower families around education. Uniting with community partners to provide culturally relevant programming for eighth- through 12th-grade students and their parents, Juntos is designed to provide families with knowledge, skills and resources to prevent youth from dropping out of high school and to encourage families to work together to gain access to college.

Juntos began at North Carolina State University in 2007, but OSU brought the program to Oregon communities and Latino families in 2012. It can be thought of as a support group designed to motivate students to continue their education after graduating from high school.

OSU education assistant and Juntos facilitator Ruth Jones has coordinated the program in other Central Oregon high schools and is proud of the success rate.

“100 percent of the students who go through Juntos graduate high school,” she said, adding that most are going to community colleges or have gotten scholarships to attend universities.

Regionally, Juntos began in Madras four years ago and has since been in Culver, Tillamook, Sisters, Redmond and now, Prineville.

About 20 local Latino families attend the six-week workshop series, held Monday evenings through May 9. They start each session with a Mazatlan dinner catered for “almost free,” Jones said.

“They have a sense of pride to give back to the Latino community,” she said of the Mazatlan Mexican Restaurant owners.

During the workshops, they learn about making education a family goal, financing college, summer opportunities to earn free college credit, internships and various other topics. 

After the workshop series concludes, the families are given the option to create a club or have some sort of family follow-up sessions and activities.

Jones said they communicate with the school and decide which topics might be useful for the families. For example, Juntos coordinators might come back and provide lessons on applying for FAFSA and scholarships or maybe help them create a college portfolio or provide parenting classes.

Jones plans to take the local Juntos families to the OSU campus in Corvallis on June 4 to get a glimpse of college life.

A grant from Better Together, a community movement that strives to ensure success for Central Oregon students, provided funding for the spring Juntos session.

A $6,600 Facebook Local Community Action Grant will provide funds for the fall session of Juntos, which will reach an entirely new group of local Latino families.

Jones said they have recently adopted a middle school curriculum as well, and the Facebook grant will also cover a fall session for the younger students and their families.

Jones hopes to be able to offer the program again next spring, but that depends on funding.

The end goal, however, is that Juntos will become a district program.

“Once they start seeing the effectiveness of the program, then we want the district to put it in their own budget,” Jones said. “If they can start to help cover some of the costs, then these are the programs that will become the norm in the future.”

Maria Terrazas, whose daughter aims to go to college, is proud of her daughter for wanting to take that step.

Her daughter interpreted for her. “She’s thankful for them coming to Prineville and giving parents the knowledge of what’s being offered the kids and what to do to take the next step on to college. We haven’t had that opportunity until Juntos came.”

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