Oct 24, 2023
Goodwell, Okla. — One of the things that faculty and staff members across the Oklahoma Panhandle State University campus seek to do is meet students where they are and take them to where they want to be and the Hispanic Student Services Department is one of the areas doing that very thing.
Director Teri Mora leads the department’s effort in identifying, addressing, and coordinating higher education needs in the Hispanic community, both on and off campus. Mora and her staff members work with both the recruitment and retention of Hispanic students assisting with everything from enrollment and financial aid prior to a student taking classes to leadership and internship opportunities once a student begins at Panhandle State. They can also bridge language barriers that may exist throughout the entire process.
Mora’s efforts have led to Panhandle State being recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) making it the only school of higher education in Oklahoma with this distinction. In order to be named an HSI, an institution must have Latino enrollments of 25% or more full-time equivalent students. HSIs may be public or private two- and four-year colleges and universities.
Mora is very passionate about her work and seeks to truly make an impact and change students’ lives. She serves as the adviser for the campus group, HALO (Hispanic American Leadership Organization), and leadership training and mentoring rise to the top of the priority list among the work she is doing with the students. Each semester, she takes a group of students to a leadership conference. In the fall, the selected group travels to San Antonio for the Adelante Conference and in the spring they attend the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute in Chicago. Not only do these conferences give the students an opportunity to learn and gain inspiration from keynote speakers and valuable breakout sessions, but also the students have the chance to network and look into internship as well as career opportunities.
Tri-State CAMP (College Assistance Migrant Program) is another opportunity for Panhandle State students that is overseen by the Hispanic Student Services Department. Alma Avalos is the mentor/ tutor for the program. CAMP is a federally funded program designed to provide an opportunity for students of migrant or seasonal farm work backgrounds to attend college. The program provides financial assistance, individualized mentoring/tutoring, and cultural activities to qualified students. The goal of CAMP is to help students succeed in completing their first year of college. Panhandle State has 10 spots available to incoming freshmen.
Mora said, “Being an institution member of HACU (Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities) has given us so many opportunities on a national level and I want to be sure that our students here on campus are aware of them. We have been fortunate in the past to have had two National Hispanic College Quiz champions and three of our former students have been selected as interns through HACU’s National Internship Program. These opportunities are available to all of our Hispanic students so I would love to be able to help many more students participate in them. In addition, we are here to help students with scholarships and resume building, as well as post-graduate opportunities.”
The National Internship Program application is due on February 16. HALO meetings are the second and fourth Tuesdays in Hefley 101 at 12:15 p.m. If you are interested or want more information about these programs, see Teri Mora in Hefley 206.
For 2017 graduate and current Texas Tech Law School Student Anyssa Barbosa the Hispanic Student Services Department had a huge impact on her during her time at Panhandle State. “The Hispanic Student Services Department at OPSU was an incredible outlet for me. I gained valuable leadership skills through coordinating events and activities in the HALO organization while making lifelong friends along the way. The department as a whole provided me with endless opportunities to grow as a role model in my community. Whether it was attending leadership conferences or competing in a nation-wide competition honoring the Hispanic heritage, working with Mrs. Mora throughout my years there really helped me discover my path and my passion after college. This department taught me to see my background and my heritage as a platform, rather than an obstacle, for which I can inspire future generations of minority students to meet their goals. In turn, we can as a whole rise as a community. Those experiences really motivated my decision to continue my education and attend the TTU School of Law. I truly would not be the woman I am today without the support from that department.”
Some of the students that are now very involved with the activities of the Hispanic Student Services Department first became aware of Panhandle State through the Upward Bound Program, a pre-college preparation and placement program working to generate the skills and motivation necessary for low income, first generation high school students to complete a college degree. Upward Bound consists of an academic year component and a five-week summer session of academic and cultural enrichment for 60 students and it is also overseen by the Hispanic Student Services Department.
The future looks bright for the growth of the university and the programs among the Hispanic Student Services department as well as new opportunities with the anticipation for increased funding as Panhandle State becomes more involved in the advantages of being designated as an HSI.
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