For several years, the Juntos Club helped many Latino students in Sampson County prepare for success. Unfortunately, the organization is currently facing a hurdle due to funding, but members are staying optimistic that the club will continue to meet its goal of readying students for higher education.
Along with other supporters, Juana Hernandez-Urquiza, state program director, said it is a sign of perseverance.
“It shows the impact that we’ve had since we’ve been in Sampson County,” Hernandez-Urquiza said. “I think them wanting to continue is a reflection of success and the impact the program has had on their families.”
Juntos, which mean “together” in Spanish, works with community organizations to provide eighth-grade and high school students with support and resources for college opportunities. It has operated through a partnership between local schools, the 4-H Club and North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Locally, the program serves students at four locations in Sampson County, including Clinton High School (CHS), Hobbton High School (HHS), Hobbton Middle School (HMS) and Sampson Middle School (SMS).
Grants from the North Carolina Youth and Families with Promise Program (NCYFP) were a major source of funding for the schools. After several years, funding concluded at the end of January. Previously, $30,000 of NCYF funds was awarded to CHS, HHS and SMS. According to officials, grants are rotated to other counties for a specific time period.
Although funding has been eliminated at the locations, a bright side is HMS Juntos program receiving a grant from Altria to help about 30 eighth-grade students with mentoring and tutoring. HHS Juntos will be working with those students.
Kathy Rivera, YFP Juntos school liaison for Sampson County, said a lot of the funds were allotted for students to take trips such as a visit to NC State for a weeklong college experience. But Rivera, a CHS educator, said the club will still find a way to visit colleges, even if it’s just for one day.
Parent workshops may be affected as well since it comes with expenses such as serving food during the events, which last about two hours. The middle school workshops focus on helping parents understand the promotion process and selecting the right classes. During the high school workshop, parents are assisted with learning about college opportunities for their children.
“The workshops were definitely beneficial,” Rivera said. “It’s information they may have not received or know.”
Rivera said students are persistent, so she does not foresee the funding cut becoming a major issue or steering the program away from its main goal.
“Regardless, we’re going to continue and the kids do a wonderful job of fundraising,” Rivera said.
One of the largest events for the local Juntos organization is the annual soccer tournament, which attracts participants from other counties. There are also possibilities for the organization to seek more grants to fill the void. Hernandez-Urquiza added that Juntos will also work with the state’s 4-H organization on the matter too.
“We are looking for funding so hopefully we can continue to work with students and families there,” Hernandez-Urquiza said.
Rivera feels the same, while expressing optimism about the future.
“Our school administration definitely backs up what the kids do,” Rivera said.
Eileen Coite, Cooperative Extension director for Sampson County, expressed support for the program, which provides leadership and college opportunities for students.
“It’s a structured program that helps them stay on the right track with their education and goals for the future,” Coite said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.