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Catawba College Plans Free, College Credit Course for Rowan Latina High School Juniors

March 11, 2020

Category: Academics, Students

co-latina.pngCatawba College has scheduled its second year of the Unanue Scholars Program, named to honor the memory of distinguished alumna Mary Ann Unanue, Class of '81. Unanue rose through the ranks of Goya Foods, Inc. to the position of Vice President, before her death in 2009 at the age of 49.. 

In the fall of 2020, Catawba will welcome its second cohort of 16 Latina juniors from the Rowan Salisbury School System, in part due to a grant received from the Salisbury Community Foundation. Students will be enrolled in a course focused on exploring their own culture, while receiving instruction in academic skills crucial for success at the college-level. 

The course will be free for students, count for college credit, and show students that college is attainable and doable, according to Dr. Forrest Anderson, Associate Provost. It will meet Mondays and Wednesdays from 4- 5:15 p.m., Aug. 19-Dec. 2. The priority application deadline is April 20. The application will remain available until May 15, on a space available basis. 

Dr. Sonia Alvarez-Wilson of the Catawba faculty said the course material, “Hispanics in the U.S.,” will allow students to read a variety of genres, such as memoir, poetry, and essays with the objective of not only honing skills necessary for college success, but also gaining a better understanding and awareness of the complex aspects of the Latino immigrant experience. 

Students will be paired with well-trained mentors chosen from Catawba’s Latina population, who make up 56% of the college’s Hispanic population. Through group meals and field trips designed to advance social capital, the mentors will serve as role models and offer advice on the realities of campus life. 


“Students will be able to see that, while their own lives are unique, they are also participating in a broader national Latino experience,” Alvarez-Wilson said. “It is exciting to be a part of an effort to ensure that young Latina women have access to higher education and prospects for a promising future!” 

Catawba excels at serving students who have been historically underserved by higher education—low-income, minority, and first-generation students, Anderson said. “Catawba’s commitment to providing an education rich in personal attention has led to resounding success in preparing first-generation students to thrive academically and beyond in their professional lives,” he said. “We are well-positioned to prepare this particular population for academic success wherever they may attend college.” 

Anderson, a veteran director of student success programs, will be administrative lead. Success will stem from the faculty and staff directing the project. Steffanie West, Director of CRM Management, and Alycia Parsons, Assistant Admissions Director, will coordinate with local high schools to recruit students. Dr. Sonia Alvarez-Wilson will teach the students in SPAN 2051: Hispanics in the U.S. and guide student mentors. Dr. Maria Vandergriff-Avery, Honors Director, is an expert in first-generation student success. Dr. Sheila Brownlow, FYE Director, will assess and evaluate program outcomes.

To be eligible, Latina juniors must be attending a Rowan County public high school. Visit to learn more about the program and how to apply.

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