This past year, Jacki and I were pleased to open The Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute at George Washington University, my alma mater. While the event itself was a milestone for us, we are hoping it inspires other institutions to provide a similar framework for student success. Our vision is for Latino college students to have a place to “call home” and for high school students to picture themselves attending a college such as GW.

The idea for the Institute became clear to us when we were faced with the stark realization that Latino students are under-matching, in other words, applying to and attending non-selective universities, for a variety of reasons. However, these institutions are not yielding higher graduation rates. In fact, Latino graduation rates at non-selective universities are lower than at selective universities. By creating the Institute at GW, we are providing the very type of support mechanisms that ensure Latino success. The Institute provides students with student support, a built-in network of peers as well as research and placement opportunities that are vital to their growth as students and professionals.

We also wanted to give high school students an opportunity to live and study on a college campus. There are many summer college programs for high school students, but they are often too expensive for low-income students to even consider. The Caminos Al Futuro program gives them that opportunity and it takes them out of their comfort zone. It opens up their world to the possibility of attending ANY selective university in the country.