Southern Oregon Juntos youths exposed to college life at Academia Latina

Latinx teenagers and college students pose for a group photo while sitting in seats at a football stadium.

Students from underrepresented communities don’t have enough access to information about their post-secondary options and/or can feel confused about the college application process. Without guidance, these students can have a hard time picturing themselves in a college setting. Strengthening connections with school staff and current college students is crucial in navigating these processes.

In response, Monserrat Alegria, Oregon State University Extension Service’s Open Campus and Juntos Program coordinator in southern Oregon, encouraged Juntos families to apply to Academia Latina, a residential summer camp held each summer at Southern Oregon University in Ashland for Latino/a/x students in seventh through ninth grades.

Camp attendees stay in the university’s dorms and are paired with current college students/mentors from universities across the state. The mentors supervise students and facilitate team-building activities and check-ins throughout the week.

Academia Latina aims to offer engaging and fun activities and facilitate a space for youths to connect with peers and college students from various colleges across the state. Students in the Academia Latina Leadership track – 10th- and 11th-graders – engage in volunteer activities off-campus, attend a day-long scholarship seminar and took part in leadership-focused activities. They completed five hours of community service during the week-long camp. Students in the 12th grade serve as junior counselors assisting senior counselors (college students) in the supervision of campers and facilitating team bonding activities.

Seven Juntos students attended the camp in 2022, which served close to 100 students from Jackson, Josephine, Klamath and Lane counties.