PORTAGE — When life interrupts, sometimes it isn't so easy to complete a high school degree.
It can be even more difficult when that interruption comes in the life of a minority.
Neighbors Educational Opportunities and the Duneland League of United Latin American Citizens is combining efforts to initiate a program at NEO/New Vistas High School to assist Latino students in not only completing their high school degree, but to remain motivated to continue their education beyond high school.
The program, Student Voices, recently received a $20,000 two-year grant through the Ford Driving Dreams Grants program through Ford Motor Co.
Alicia Rios, of LULAC Council 5016 and a member of NEO's board, said the two groups share a common interest in promoting education and supporting students who may be struggling with getting a quality education.
"We are so excited and honored to receive the grant," she said, adding the partnership is one of 10 councils nationwide selected to receive the 2018 Ford Driving Dreams grant. The grant program partners with LULAC councils to assist Hispanic/Latino students achieve their goals.
Leticia Munguia, registrar at the school and coordinator for the grant program, said about 250 students attend NEO's New Vistas High School or learning center programs aimed at earning a high school equivalency diploma.
According to NEO's 2017/2018 annual report, 14 percent of the students attending NEO programs are Hispanic. More than 50 percent of the students are 26 to 45 years old. The majority of the students live in Lake and Porter counties. Last year, 254 students earned either their high school or high school equivalency diplomas through NEO.
Munguia said they are in the process of selecting students for the Student Voices program,which will offer a variety of programs after school aimed at strengthening English language and academic skills.
"It is aimed at helping them with their STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) skills and help with college-bound skills," Munguia said.
Students will be taking a variety of field trips, working with a local radio station and with communications classes at Purdue Northwest Westville. Additional programs will be developed during the two years, including a possible trip to a Ford manufacturing plant.
The goal, she said, is for students to learn the skills they need to fulfill these types of jobs and to get excited and motivated to set and then achieve that goal of completing high school, possibly going on to post secondary education and getting a good job.