Enrique Ruiz Sanchez, Mexican consul in Philadelphia, addresses those attending the announcement of a new program offered at King’s College called, "The Plaza Comunitaria.” The initiative is an educational outreach for the local Hispanic population.Aimee Dilger / The Times Leader
Sitting between Minerva and Carmen Flores, 4-year-old Jonathan Flores claps at the announcement of a new outreach program for Hispanic immigrants being offered at King’s College.Aimee Dilger/The Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE – Immigrants who move here from Mexico and elsewhere will be able to continue their education through a new Hispanic outreach program at King’s College.
The unique program fits in well with the school’s founding mission, according to the Rev. Thomas O’Hara, King’s president.
He said serving the working class, including immigrants and their children, was important to the school’s founders in 1946. He said it’s still important to college leaders today as a new wave of immigrants settles in Luzerne County.
In conjunction with the Mexican government’s Institute for Mexicans Living Abroad, King’s McGowan Hispanic Outreach Program will begin a free, on-campus program for members of the region’s burgeoning Hispanic community. During an event Thursday celebrating the partnership, college and Mexican government officials gathered on campus to detail the program and its benefits.
Using laptops and educational computer programs, local Hispanic residents who were unable to complete their education in their home countries are now able to catch up and receive equivalency diplomas issued by Mexico. The program, called “Plaza Comunitaria,” includes elementary and high school courses.
Among the 14 who have already signed up for the program that starts in mid-February is 53-year-old Gelacio Tlatenchi of Wilkes-Barre.
He received an education at the sixth-grade level in his native Puebla, Mexico, and saw this program as an opportunity to “higher my education to get a better job with it.” His daughter, Noemi, is a freshman elementary education major at King’s and a 2008 Coughlin High School graduate.
She said she’s proud of her father and his initiative to sign up for the program. Translating for her father, Neomi said her father believes that those who enroll in the program are not only bettering their own life but setting a good example for the children.
Isabel Balsamo, who coordinates the school’s Hispanic Outreach Program, agreed.
“You teach by example,” Balsamo said. “If the kids see their parents educating themselves, they will see how valuable an education is.” She said the program is open to ages 16 and older but those who have signed up are all in their 30s, 40s and 50s.
Enrique Ruiz Sanchez, the Mexican consul based in Philadelphia, said the community and the college should be proud of the program and classified the partnership as unique.
Brother George C. Schmitz, the college’s coordinator of after-school partnerships, said King’s and New York University are the only eastern U.S. colleges permitted to offer the program by the Mexican government.
He said the program is needed here and the early response shows it. There is room for up to 30 students at a time, though that number could increase.
Call Isabel Balsamo at 208-5900, ext. 5466 or stop into Room 206 in the McGowan School of Business building on River Street.