Juntos families in Wasco County respond to new facilitators and revamped delivery

A group of Juntos families and students in Wasco County wearing matching black shirts.

Oregon State University Extension Service’s Open Campus and Juntos Program provides access to education through community-based partnerships and unique programming. Juntos (“together” in Spanish) is a multi-component program designed to bring Latinx families and educational institutions together to create pathways to higher education for Latinx youth and their families. Juntos relies on facilitators who instruct workshop sessions.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of the Juntos facilitators in Wasco County resigned. Open Campus and Juntos Coordinator Andrea Flores-Reyna recruited three former Juntos participants to become facilitators: Jaimie Esiquio, Jasmin Huila and Yesenia Aguilar. They were trained and were part of a Juntos Middle School Workshop in the spring of 2022 that wasn’t successful due to lack of participation from families.

In response, Juntos conducted a needs assessment survey for rising ninth graders and their families. Based on the survey results, Flores-Reyna revamped Juntos for the beginning of the 2022-23 school year. They picked a date in the week that worked for both parents and students. Flores-Reyna also looked at different outlets to promote upcoming workshop. North Wasco County School District 21 supported Flores-Reyna with advertising on The Dalles High School website and also sent a mass message to parents. The Columbia Gorge Education Service District Migrant Education Program also supported this effort by contacting families through its listservs.

As a result of this work, 10 families consistently participated in the high school workshop. It was the highest participation rate since Flores-Reyna became coordinator in 2018. Esiquio, Huila and Aguilar all said they have benefited from being Juntos facilitators.

Esqiuio, who joined Juntos in 2015, graduated from high school in 2017 and OSU in 2020 and is now a second-grade dual language teacher.

“I feel very thankful that I get to give back to my home community and help other students succeed,” Esqiuio said. “I hope to have a positive impact on the students by motivating them and helping them build the tools they need to be successful. My biggest hope is to move parents to believe in their students and support them in every step of the way.”

Huila joined Juntos in the 2014-15 school year when she was a high school senior at The Dalles High School. She graduated from OSU in 2020 and is now a Community Outreach Coordinator at Mid-Columbia Medical Center.

“Juntos made me feel welcomed, included and safe to show my identity as a Latina,” Huila said. “Facilitating for Juntos has been a lot of fun and it's also been gratifying because the families are really invested in their children’s' education and ask very good questions. Family engagement is high which makes the experience a good one. The impact I hope to have on the Juntos families is to inspire them to pursue higher education and provide them with resources on how to pay for school, where to find support, and the importance of postsecondary education.”

Aguilar, who joined Juntos in 2015, graduated from OSU in 2021 and is now a Community Health Worker.

“Facilitating Juntos has been a great experience to see parents and students interested and involved with their education,” Aguilar said. “I am hoping to impact the Juntos families by encouraging them to go on to a post-secondary education whether it’s community college, university, trade school, or any other certification a student may receive they need to get to where they want to be.”