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ISU Extension program offers career planning services for Hispanic families | News, Sports, Jobs

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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
The nine families who participated in the inaugural Pathways For Our Future program through the Marshall County ISU Extension and some of the facilitators pose for a photo during the wrap up session at Miller Middle School on Oct. 17.

Grisel Chavez is a product of the Marshalltown community and school system, and through a program she is leading at Iowa State University’s Marshall County Extension Office, she hopes she can pay her experience forward to help other families looking for a leg up.

Chavez, who serves the extension as a program assistant in nutrition education programs, hosted six free sessions as part of a program called “Pathways For Our Future” to assist Hispanic families in the community — specifically, middle school age students — as they prepare to make decisions about future careers and if/where they will attend college. Although the language barrier is still the most obvious hurdle facing many of these families, she said a general lack of resources can also be a hindrance.

The Pathways For Our Future course — Salir Adelante en Espanol — was conducted over six weeks and wrapped up with a program and meal at Miller Middle School on Oct. 17.

“I know (students) still have those four years of high school to see if they want to go to college or not, so we pretty much guide the parents on how ‘OK, if my children don’t want to go to college, what do you want to do with life then?’ Do you want to open your own business or go to beauty school or do construction, you know, something that they’re passionate about,” Chavez said. “Not just pushing them to go to college, spending all this money on college and eventually, they don’t end up doing anything.”

For those who do wish to continue their education, Chavez and her team provide information on student loans and FAFSA, and she shared a bit of her own experience preparing to attend college. Quinceanearas are a staple of Hispanic culture, and as Chavez noted, many parents spend thousands of dollars on the events when their daughters turn 15.

“We talked about (how) instead of spending all that money, you know you can save up all this money to go to college,” she said.

In her five years with the ISU Extension, Chavez has had the opportunity to grow personally and professionally, attending conferences across the Midwest in places like Chicago and Kansas City, but even she admitted that her own mother was skeptical at first — after all, it was out of her “shelter.” Still, she hopes that people like herself and a few of the presenters she brought in for the class can serve as a good example for Hispanic/Latino youngsters in one of Iowa’s most diverse communities and remind them that anything is possible.

She shared one story of a Marshalltown native who started at Emerson as a welder but wound up starting his own auto detailing business on the side and watching that blossom.

“He has his own business now, but then he knows that after a while, if he’s getting less clients, he still has his career,” she said. “He was pretty honest, and I really liked that.”

The nine families who participated this year gave Chavez plenty of positive feedback, and she also made sure to shout out the local Mexican grocery stores that donated food for each session along with other key facilitators like County Youth Services Coordinator Elizabeth Emley, two MHS teachers and a Miller staff member. Based on the success of the inaugural Pathways For Our Future program, she hopes to offer it again in the future, and she can’t wait to see how it will continue to grow.

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Contact Robert Maharry

at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or rmaharry@timesrepublican.com.



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