Teacher Appreciation: Honoring Those Who Help Mentor and Shape the Future of Academia.

Educators work tirelessly to ensure the success and well-being of the next generation of students by guiding them through the rough waters of academic life. Kremen recognizes this immense contribution and to show their support, they have launched a donation program starting Tuesday, January 11th, where they will be honoring their “Mentor Teachers” who have taken time to work with several credential candidates over the past semester.

Kremen partners with over 20 district partners every semester to place their single subject, education specialist, and multiple subject credential candidates. To give back, they have created a “Mentor Teacher Appreciation Gift Bag” which includes 450 $5 gift cards from Dutch Bro’s (a generous donation amounting in a total value of $2,250), a Mentor-Teacher Self Care Brochure, an assortment of Fresno State items such as business cards, lanyards, pens, sticky pads, as well as, a Thank You Letter with a small bag of candy attached to the note. These gift bags are a way to help mentor teachers know how special they are to everyone that is associated with Kremen and to the student’s whose lives have been impacted by their kindness and generosity.

Some of the key members involved with this kind-hearted initiative include Dean Yerrick,  Jenelle Pitt Parker, Juliet Wahleithner, and Felipe Mercado, with generous support from Bonnie Inthisane and Navneet Kaur who assisted with the assembly of the gift bags. In order to calculate the proper amount of Mentor Teacher Appreciation Bags, the Kremen Department evaluated the amount of fall placements to see how many mentor teachers resided in each district. The total amount of bags equated to 450 after calculation, Clovis and Fresno receiving the most, 105 bags split between the two, with Visalia following, along with Coalinga, Porterville, Cowchilla, Madera and many others. The outreach effort spanned the entire South Valley, covering counties both large and small.

This initiative was launched in the hopes of reinvigorating mentor teachers and encouraging new ones, especially during difficult times of the year. Dean Yerrick and Felipe Mercado will be personally handing out the vast majority of these gift bags to their assigned recipients. When the districts heard of this upcoming donation, they were extremely thankful, their hearts warming as they realized just how appreciated they are by the Kremen community.

(Written by Audra Burwell, a Creative Writing student employed by the Kremen School of Education and Human Development.)

Kremen School equips student interns with skills to flourish and succeed

The Kremen School of Education and Human Development provides a broad variety of internships that help prepare Fresno State students for their future careers, teaching them valuable technical skills and instilling in them the confidence that allows for a smooth transition into their professional industries.

Marivel Bravo-Mendosa

Marivel Bravo-Mendosa began working on her master’s degree at Fresno State in the fall of 2017. Being enrolled in the Student Affairs and College Counseling program required her to complete 700 hours of supervised counseling experience. When exploring internship opportunities, Mendosa discovered that the Kremen School of Education and Human Development had an open internship position in its Counselor Education and Rehabilitation Department. After applying, Mendosa was quickly catapulted into the world of advising, learning how to assist students such as herself with their academic needs.

Interning with the Counselor Education and Rehabilitation Department helped Mendosa in many other ways as well.

She was quickly exposed to many of the things Kremen does for college students both while they are attending Fresno State and after graduation. Mendosa explains how everyone at Kremen was extremely nice and welcoming. She enjoyed getting to know the diverse group of students that apply to Fresno State and being able to assist them on their journey.

“I feel much more confident and prepared to embrace new environments, especially after working with so many different backgrounds. My internship helped me to become more culturally aware and also allowed me to apply the advising skills that I was learning in my classes.”

Marivel Bravo-Mendosa

Now a graduate with a M.S. degree in Counseling, Mendosa fondly looks back on her internship at Kremen.

“I treasure the connections that I made with the students, especially when they were stressed out or unsure of what the program was asking for. I would help them fill out applications and go into detail on what some of the questions meant. It was amazing to see the relief in their eyes once their emotions were validated. It was very empowering and humbling to see that I was making a difference, especially with my first-generation students. Even though it was in my own little corner of the world, at a tiny desk, it was still meaningful,” – Mendosa explains with pride.

Since graduating, Mendosa has continued pursuing her passion in counseling as an Academic Advisor for Enseñamos en el Valle Central. The valuable skills and connections she gained during her internship are now helping aid her as she continues her journey.

Mendosa elaborates on her successful transition to Enseñamos, “interning for Kremen helped me with networking. I got to know a lot of the staff and faculty which was great because now, with Enseñamos, we put on special events and projects which involve reaching out to the rest of the department. It gave me the confidence to work with them directly and to implement a different level of professionalism in our interactions.”

While the Counselor Education and Rehabilitation Department has provided countless hours of training and resources for students, they are only one of the many different internship programs that Kremen offers. The school’s communications team has also helped to prepare numerous interns for their upcoming careers by offering comprehensive training that will help carry them through the rest of their life.

Stacy Hurtado, a current student in the Mass Communication and Journalism bachelor’s program, applied for a communications and marketing internship with the Kremen School during her first summer at Fresno State. After gaining the position, Hurtado expected her assigned work tasks to be mundane in nature, such as organizing files, labelling documents and attending to reminders. The actuality of her internship proved to be much more thrilling and immersive, however, something she is grateful for in retrospect.

“One thing I really miss from my internship is planning my mini summer social media campaign. It threw me for a loop originally because I wasn’t expecting to do something like that. I thought it was just going to be like ‘oh help me out with a couple of instagram posts or tweets’. Working with the school, getting my ideas on paper, brainstorming and making it all come to life, that was really fun.”

Stacy Hurtado

Hurtado’s summer social media campaign was focused on increasing student excitement for returning to campus for the fall semester. She incorporated summer colors, motivational quotes, lighthearted memes and versioned the campaign for three different social channels. “I really cherished the creative freedom that was given to me.”

Hurtado describes some of the skills that she acquired through her internship and how they are now benefitting her current position as Social Media Director of the Fresno State Collegian Newspaper.

“It really helped me with content creation, especially with the planning aspect of it, knowing how to organize articles and campaigns. I had already done similar tasks before but not with that amount of content. It taught me how to do things very quickly, but with the same amount of quality that I was used to,” Hurtado cheerfully explains.

Working as a Communications and Marketing Intern helped to ease the transition for Hurtado after she was hired by The Collegian. All of the organizational skills, design techniques and writing styles she picked up during her internship were instantly transferred to her new and exciting position. She now helps direct all of the social media platforms for Fresno State’s main student news outlet with confidence and assurance.

Phylisha Chaidez, a recent Fresno State graduate, has now been appointed as a Community Health and Wellness Assistant for the Madera County Department of Public Health. She, too, worked closely with the school’s communications team. While pursuing her B.A. in Mass Communication and Journalism in the fall of 2019, she began her semester-long internship.

Chaidez warmly reflects on her time at Kremen and how it has shaped her as both an employee and as an individual.

“My internship pushed me to learn new things that I had never had any experience with before such as writing press releases and interviewing people. It made me a better writer,” said Chaidez. “I found the environment very exciting especially when news agencies such as ABC30 came to cover an event or a program we put together.”

Phylisha Chaidez

Chaidez explains how her passion has always been to work in the journalism industry. Attaining this internship was a dream come true. She recalls how she would shadow the school’s Communications Specialist, watching how they conducted their work, while taking notes on their techniques for future reference.

“It introduced me to the world of communication and journalism, making it an easy transition to my current job as a Community Health and Wellness Assistant. It is really neat seeing it all come full circle.”

Looking back on the fond memories she made during her internship, Chaidez describes some of the things she now misses, “I miss the unique method that Fresno State uses to write press releases. A lot of organizations are very straight to the point when it comes to writing publicity material but Fresno State really personalizes their stories, making them more compelling for the reader. One of my favorite stories was centered around a Fresno State graduate who authored a bilingual children’s book for her daughter. I remember that both the Collegian and ABC30 picked that story up. It was amazing to get that amount of publicity, especially for such a heartwarming and visionary story.”

Without the guidance and support that the Kremen School’s communications team offered, Chaidez states that she might not have felt as comfortable entering her current position. Having been given an arsenal of resources and training, she now confidently marches forward in her career.

Oneida Escobar

The Kremen School’s Center for Advising and Student Services has also helped a myriad of individuals find a niche within their particular industry. Oneida Escobar interned with them during a 2-year span while she was pursuing a master’s degree in Student Affairs and College Counseling. After graduating just this year, she is now a counselor at Fresno City College. She works for the Applied Technology Department, focusing on assisting students within the area of technology and trade school occupations. She works to ensure students receive the hands-on training that they need to transfer directly into the workforce.

Escobar explains how the rigorous nature of the training she encountered during her internship helped to prepare her for working in a technical, trade-based environment. She was taught how to construct and give presentations and how to participate in a broad range of areas that encouraged professional development. Attending to the front desk in the Kremen advising center also helped Escobar expand on her interpersonal communication skills and increased her situational preparedness.

“The training I received from the Advising Center was extremely hands-on and prepared me for working in different sectors that were previously outside my comfort zone. I was taught how to advise students one on one through zoom, provide credential information to interested applicants, and how to facilitate group advising. When I had the opportunity to enter into an employed position, I already had the transferable skills and experience I needed.”

Oneida Escobar

She describes how the Advising Center even helped to coach her on employee etiquette and assisted with the process of securing a job once her internship was over.

“When I was interviewing for jobs it was great having the support of the department behind me. It can be a very stressful experience as a new graduate, not knowing if you are going to get hired or not. The Advising Center would help quiz me on interview questions and sort of emulate what would be asked of me to help me prepare for the real thing. They really helped to build my confidence and encouraged me to be brave when it came to presenting my skills.”

The advising tactics that Escobar learned during her internship are the same ones that she is now applying as a full-fledged academic counselor. She explains how she has Jessica McVay, her previous supervisor and a member of the Kremen Liberal Studies Department, to thank for teaching her a wealth of valuable information.

 “During the internship portion of my training we had to be observed by our supervisor for a certain period of time as we conducted advising sessions. I received an immense amount of positive feedback and constructive criticism from our supervisor at the time, Jessica McVay. She helped reveal some points that I needed to work on, such as connecting more with the students in my office, making the experience personal for them,” Escobar elaborates.

“She showed me how to start a friendly rapport near the beginning of the meeting to set up a strong relationship foundation and then how to lead the appointment in a gentle manner, making sure to ease the concerns of the student by the end. It was over a year and a half ago that she gave me that particular piece of feedback and it is something I still employ currently with my students.”

Escobar has also been able to utilize the networking connections that she acquired through her internship to benefit some of her current philanthropic efforts. She works closely with an AVID coordinator from the Porterville High School, helping to raise funds to send students on college field trips. The AVID program focuses on students who are primarily First Generation and who come from low-income families. They provide these opportunities for the students so that they can obtain exposure to college and realize the amount of resources offered to them.

To help the program gain traction and to encourage publicity, Escobar was able to rely on the Advising Center for assistance.

“Recently, I reached out to some of the staff within the Kremen Department. I’m wanting to do a fundraising effort for our liberal studies teacher credential students and potential first year teachers. We want to provide them with the opportunity to apply for money, so that they will be able to create lesson plans during the credential program to help kickstart their classroom. By having those connections, I was able to reach out to them with my idea, gaining valuable support and insight. They were all very helpful and offered to assist with marketing and everything.”

Escobar is extremely grateful to have so much support from the Kremen Department, especially post-graduation. She acknowledges them for helping shape her as a leader and a mentor, and for inspiring her to reach for the stars.

“My internship provided me with countless opportunities of leadership, especially when it came to organizing fundraising efforts. These leadership skills helped me go beyond the realm of simple academic advising and started me on a path of mentorship which I am now continuing as a Fresno City College counselor.”

(Written by Audra Burwell, a creative writing student)

Fresno State Faculty Members Share Profound Wisdom and Diverse Educational Techniques with Schools in Egypt.

How cross-cultural similarities can bridge the gap between nations and foster a shared educational experience.

Situated beside the dusty, languorous banks of the Nile River is the genteel neighborhood of Maadi, a small province in Cairo, Egypt, known for its forested streets and exotic dining scene. It provides a diverse, global experience, offering a variety of blended cultures and universal dishes to appease its visitors. After visiting Egypt a multitude of times between 2019-2020, Dr. Emily Walter and Dr. Frederick Peinado Nelson have begun partnering with five universities in Egypt, along with several local academic institutions, to implement two post-baccalaureate certificates, one in STEM teaching and one in STEM leadership, and are currently supporting the development of courses for a 4-year undergraduate STEM teaching diploma.

STEM education reform efforts typically focus on high school age children. Dr. Walter and Dr. Nelson’s primary focus has been centered on utilizing innovative education techniques, relevant to both future and current teachers. Their goal is to illustrate how STEM learning can be an interactive and enjoyable experience through more hands-on methods as opposed to the traditional lecture style of teaching with students of all ages. Five universities are the primary recipients of these project-based lesson plans which target many of Egypt’s grand challenges. 

The lessons they are administering are trans-disciplinary and connect to many of the regional and social challenges of Egypt. Their ecological and cultural struggles are similar to our own here in the Central Valley, many of which include severe pollution, poor air quality, a struggle to obtain clean drinking water, a lack of affordable housing, congested traffic, and a strive to create a safe environment for nature to prosper. Realizing this distinct bridge between worlds will allow future students in the program to connect with peers across the globe and will help broaden their world view. These challenges offer realistic situations and data for STEM learning, as well as providing a global perspective in the minds of the students as they realize the vastness of the human experience. 

This blossoming education program owes its thanks to the multi-institutional STEM Teacher Education and School Strengthening Activity (STESSA) project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which took root in April of 2018, with the generous contributions of five prolific universities, including Cal Poly, Fresno State and the 21st Century Partnership for STEM Education, a nonprofit educational foundation in Philadelphia. The lead institutional partners supporting this endeavor are Fresno State’s own College of Science and Mathematics, the Kremen School of Education and Human Development and the Lyles College of Engineering. They are currently being funded by a $24.2 million grant presented by the STESSA project. 

It has been a tumultuous, three-year process of networking with other educators in Egypt to make this program possible. Dr. Frederick Peinado Nelson and Dr. Emily Walter have both worked extremely hard helping design teacher education programs in Egypt and providing attentive educational support to help educators from abroad refine their teaching systems. Their goal is to network with other educators whose backgrounds are strikingly different from their own and cross-compare techniques that can help benefit their students.

“Emily and I have been working with the faculty in Egypt for some time now and have formed some amazing relationships with folks who also treasure science and education. We cannot wait to see our work pay off once they employ it in their curriculums.”

Dr. Frederick Peinado Nelson, in an interview with Fresno State’s Kremen Communications Department. 

If it wasn’t for Dr. Emily Walter and Dr. Frederick Peinado Nelson’s strive toward success and the continued support from educators in Egypt, this upcoming educational collaboration would never have been established. We can now witness their work coming full circle. 

(Written by Audra Burwell, a Creative Writing student employed by the Kremen School of Education and Human Development .)

Music Educators Use Innovative Techniques During The Pandemic

When the pandemic hit and schools and universities across the country switched to online learning, music educators scrambled to find new and alternative ways to teach their students. No longer able to gather in a room to collaborate, music educators needed to find innovative ways to teach their students.

Aaron Luna, a student in Fresno State’s Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership who is director of bands at Divisadero Middle School and an adjunct professor of the Music Department at Fresno State, was one of those music educators who had to make changes in his classroom to make sure his students’ musical growth wasn’t hindered.

Luna’s district provided a new music program that allowed his students to hear how the music he assigned is supposed to be played on their specific instrument. Although this gave his students a sense of normalcy during a time when they weren’t together, there were challenges.

“It was really cool and interactive but for students that have a bad Internet connection it was really difficult,” Luna said. “And, for me as an educator as well, I think it had a huge impact on their musical growth and their performance outcomes.”

To combat this, Luna decided to go back to the roots of music and have conversations with his students about race and culture as it pertains to music, including jazz, Bali music and mariachi.

“I think it’s important to have music within the curriculum that reflects the student demographic so the students are able to see or make cultural connections to the music,” Luna said.

Dr. Nicholas Fuentes, a recent Fresno State graduate and now vice president for community education and enrichment at the Santa Barbara Symphony, oversees music education programs targeted at students in third grade and up.

Before the pandemic the Santa Barbara Symphony offered a hands-on approach to help aspiring young musicians in the community.

“We do something called the music van which delivers instruments to schools and gives a presentation. Most kids have never seen a French horn or timpani before so this is an opportunity for them to see it, hold it, play it, touch it, and it really helps generate interest in the kids. We’re also running programs where we hold a symphony for all of the elementary school kids in town. We’ll do a performance and there’s instruction that goes along with it, talking about what the conductor does, what the different instruments are. So it’s an educational session but also a musical performance.”

During the pandemic the symphony decided to make changes that allowed students to still learn and get the experience of their programs without actually leaving their classroom. The symphony put together a virtual program in the place of the music van that allowed students to learn about all of the different instruments of the symphony.

These innovative teaching methods that resulted from the pandemic have brought to the forefront some new tools to help students succeed—some of which may remain part of the curriculum going forward.

(By Devon Hunt, creative writing student)

Kremen grad’s long educational journey leads to governor-appointed job

Being a young mother and working a part-time job wasn’t at all a detriment, but for Dr. Lupe Jaime-Mileham, there was still this awareness that she might not be able to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from the Kremen School of Education and Human Development at Fresno State in the targeted five years. 

Walking in without an appointment, she met with an adviser who helped her unpack classes previously taken at a different university. 

“There was an understanding that I’d probably take a lot longer because it was difficult for me to carry a full-time load. I ended up doing close to over nine years of getting my first degree with Kremen,” said Jaime-Mileham.

Then, taking strides to advance her education, Jaime-Mileham would once again walk through the hallways of the Kremen School when she decided she could make a greater impact in education if she earned an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership

Throughout her program, she struggled with a sense of belonging due to English not being her first language and coming from a migrant background. The program director at the time, Dr. Ken Magdaleno, became a mentor for her. 

“From my first meeting with her, I was convinced that she would be an honored leader in her chosen field,” said Magdaleno.

Jaime-Mileham was able to bounce her vulnerabilities on him, and she said that having his support was crucial to getting to the finish line. 

Passionate about her work as the senior director of Early Care and Education for the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools, she decided to take the next step in her career. Feeling empowered with a doctorate in educational leadership, she applied for the California Department of Social Services’ brand new Child Care and Development Division. After a series of interviews, Jaime-Mileham was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and Senate-confirmed as the deputy director of the Child Care and Development Division.

She’d realize that the position would offer her the opportunity to bring not only her unique voice and upbringing, but also “that Central Valley lens,” to her work.

When asked about her goal for the next year, Jaime-Mileham hopes that the record-breaking investments to the department are a testament to what this current administration and legislators are trying to bring forth. 

“My hope is to ensure that every family has access to quality services across the state — whether it’s our smallest rural community in the Central Valley. Quality efforts including both linguistically and culturally appropriate practices, where we’re honoring families’ home language and supporting our early childhood workforce.”

When reflecting on her position as deputy director and her education at Fresno State, Jaime-Mileham is drawn to the uniqueness of the Kremen School’s graduate programs, in particular the Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education program. 

“The Kremen School has always been one of the leaders on the forefront of early childhood education and not only having that unique masters in early childhood, which is unheard of across the state, but also having great professors who are able to prepare this workforce that is going to work with our very youngest learners. I continue to see Kremen champion that work and continue to support the workforce,” she said.

Like Jaime-Mileham and countless other graduates who are agents of change in our community, the Kremen School is dedicated to preparing credible and relevant leaders committed to advancing equity and excellence in education.

(Written by Devon Hunt, a creative writing student)

Sharing a mission to provide quality education to early learners

Fansler Foundation awards Huggins Center $150,000

Research doesn’t show anyone how to prepare for a pandemic, let alone how to put a 3-year-old in front of a computer camera for weeks to learn.

But the Joyce M. Huggins Early Education Center within Fresno State’s Programs for Children was up to the task, having set the bar high for innovation and teacher training over the years thanks to the support of the Fansler Foundation.

After a four-month closure early in the pandemic, the Programs for Children reopened in August 2020 to provide the children of student-parents, faculty and staff with hybrid learning options: engaging and creative online interaction for those who chose to stay home, or onsite learning in a safe and sanitized environment.

The Huggins Center and the Fansler Foundation have long shared a mission to provide quality education to young children. The foundation, a private nonprofit in Fresno supporting organizations that assist challenged youth, has awarded grants to Programs for Children since 2003 to help with programming, professional development, the creation of an endowed chair and more. The foundation’s reach has also touched other areas of the University over the years.

In August, Fresno State received notification of a $150,000 gift from the Fansler Foundation to support the endowment for the D. Paul Fansler Endowed Chair for Leadership in Early Childhood Education and to continue the work of the Huggins Center.

Programs for Children provides services for about 155 children ages three months to 12 years through its three centers: the Campus Children’s Infant/Toddler Center, the Campus Children’s Preschool Center and the Huggins Center.

The Huggins Center includes the Marlene M. Fansler Infant and Toddler Program, the D. Paul Fansler Preschool and School Age Program, and the D. Paul Fansler Institute for the Leadership in Early Childhood Education. D. Paul Fansler was the nonprofit’s founder, who with his wife, Marlene, set out to help special needs and socioeconomically disadvantaged children in the Valley. He passed away in 1990, and his wife continues to lead the foundation.

“The Fansler Foundation shares our vision to provide the highest quality of service and priority for student families,” said Dr. Pei-Ying Wu, Fansler Chair and assistant professor in the Department of Literacy, Early, Bilingual and Special Education. The Fansler Chair was  established in 2002 to expand opportunities for professional development and research.

“Many of our children are not from wealthy families. In the literature, children from those backgrounds don’t have resources to receive high-quality, advanced STEAM education,” Wu said. “With the Fansler Foundation’s generous support, we are able to provide that education to young children and their families. It means a lot to us that we have the Fansler Foundation who trusts us and are willing to give to us, share our positive outcomes and celebrate with us.”

The Huggins Center is inspired by the Italian “Reggio Emilia Education” approach based on the idea that children learn and express themselves in a variety of ways. Literacy development, critical thinking and creative expression are central to the curriculum. The Fansler Foundation believes in this approach and has helped the program send two teachers every year to Italy for training.

In recent years, Programs for Children started incorporating STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) into its teaching. That includes having equipment like light tables, microscope pens, a digital microscope, coding robots and coding blocks for the children while adapting online apps like Scratch Junior for early learners. The app is designed for children in kindergarten through sixth grade.

Teachers are trained to use the equipment and are adept at using online platforms like Google Suite, laptops and cameras to communicate. Their familiarity with using technology was beneficial this past year with virtual learning, said Brittney Randolph, director of Programs for Children. In addition, a virtual coaching team led by Wu was also able to observe the virtual classes and provide feedback on what could be improved, changed or tried.

Read more at www.FresnoStateNews.com.

Paving a path to success for Latinx communities

Dedicated to transforming Hispanic Serving Institutions and transforming a campus environment that builds a sense of belonging from enrollment to graduation.

Future educator Dori Trujillo is studying at Fresno State, working her way toward earning a multiple subject teaching credential. After graduating in the summer of 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies, Trujillo knew her next step was to become an educator. What she didn’t know was that it would lead her to becoming a project assistant with Enseñamos en el Valle Central.

Enseñamos en el Valle Central is an innovative collaboration between Fresno State, Fresno City College and Reedley College that focuses on strengthening pathways for underrepresented future educators.

“With Enseñamos, I learned to appreciate my bilingualism as the beautiful asset it is,” said Trujillo.

Enseñamos responds to the many intricate challenges higher education poses, such as connecting with faculty and peers, obtaining academic counseling and mentoring support, interpreting degree plans and meeting graduation requirements.

“Enseñamos en el Valle Central places a strong emphasis on fostering a sense of belonging for students,” said Dr. Patricia D. López, director of the Enseñamos initiative and assistant professor of curriculum and instruction at Fresno State.

“We are intentional about going above mere enrollment of Latinx students and work hard to transform and influence how the institution reflects the students we serve. Our programmatic events are contributing fundamentally to a campus culture that affirms the rich history and cultural contributions of Latinx communities in the Central Valley,” said Lopez.

Fresno State has seen a drastic increase in incoming first-generation students of Hispanic ethnicity, particularly in the past couple years. In 2016, 52.6% of the student body was composed of incoming Hispanic students. That increased to 59.4% in 2020, representing well over half of the campus population. Some colleges, such as the Kremen School of Education and Human Development, saw an even greater increase, catapulting from 59.2% in 2016 to 70.8% in 2020.

One of the many factors that have contributed to the increase in Hispanic students pursuing higher education in the Kremen School is the $3.75 million Title V grant, Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program, which created the foundation for the Enseñamos initiative to launch in 2018. Over the past four years, the initiative has flourished and taken shape, promoting the success of future Latinx teachers.

Nearly 65% of Fresno State students are the first generation in their families to earn a college degree, which can change the future trajectory of their lives.

“Many first-generation students are left estranged by higher education through often tedious and confusing processes and a lack of connection to faculty and courses that are detached from their communities and experiences,” said López. “These institutional roadblocks leave students feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, at times squeezing them out of the system altogether.”

Programs such as Enseñamos en el Valle Central respond to these ongoing patterns by focusing on institutional barriers while building up first-generation students to navigate higher education, allowing them to begin their educational journey with peace of mind.

“I have felt I can count on my colleagues as family,” said Trujillo. “I’ve found the best mentorship in our director, Dr. López. The way she advocates for students like me inspires me to build the same environment in my future classroom.”

Adding to the need for more support to Latinx students is a growing demand to increase the number of Latinx teachers, particularly those who can teach in bilingual classrooms. Minority students in higher education at times feel out of place or have experienced alienation among their peers. Having professors who are culturally affirming, approachable and who represent the diverse Latinx culture, allow students to feel more at ease and less isolated in the classroom. They are more likely to engage and ask for assistance if they feel seen and are given a warm and inviting learning environment.

Through collaboration the Enseñamos initiative begins working with students at the high school and community college level — providing counseling guidance and strengthening transfer pathways into Fresno State, structuring a smooth transition through higher education and providing continuous support to enter teaching credential programs.

López has spent the past four years collaborating with students, staff, faculty and community members, watching her vision grow as the program continues expanding.

Enseñamos en el Valle Central has gained traction alongside growing recognition of minority-serving institutions and the critical role they play in serving diverse students of color who are increasingly the face of higher education.

This includes a recent proclamation by President Joseph R. Biden declaring Sept. 12 through 18 as National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week:

“I call on public officials, educators, and all the people of the United States to observe this week with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that acknowledge the many ways these institutions and their graduates contribute to our country.”

Enseñamos en el Valle Central continues to exemplify the goal of expanding educational opportunities and improving academic and career attainment among Latinx students. This fall they are kicking off a fall Plática and Taller series that centers art, culture, identity and healing, as a way to inspire dialogue among diverse communities and thoughtfully consider what it means to serve Central Valley communities. Events are open to all and can be found on their website along with an inventory of past events such as their highly successful anti-racism series during the 2019-20 academic year.

While many of these events transpire during specific windows of time, Enseñamos understands that students have extremely busy schedules with class conflicts so to guarantee equal access for all participants, they record each event and post details to their website which can be found at this link here.

(Written by Audra Burwell, a creative writing student, and assistant professor Patricia D. López)