Hispanic Heritage Month takes place each year from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Throughout the month, The Daily highlighted members of the university community who are of Hispanic heritage to celebrate their accomplishments and shed light on their experiences at CWRU. In honor of the final day of Hispanic Heritage Month, we are highlighting a new program that is providing resources and support to help Latinx students succeed at Case Western Reserve University.

The members of the Líderes Avanzando (Advancing Leaders) program at Case Western Reserve University refer to themselves as a tight-knit “familia.” Established in 2020, the program promotes community and belonging for Latinx students—in all fields of study. 

“Creating and maintaining that sense of community—that is magical,” said Germaine Peña, facilitator of CWRU’s Líderes Avanzando program and lead facilitator and manager at Esperanza, CWRU’s partner for the program. “Being able to see my students flourish, get connected with established resources, seeing them reach their potential and develop that sense of confidence—it’s incredible.”

The program, an initiative of CWRU Student Success, matches students with one faculty/staff member, one alumni, and one Latinx peer mentor, and facilitates opportunities for them to enhance their academic skills, build self-efficacy, explore career interests, prepare for career paths, and learn from professional and academic Latinx mentors through curriculum and workshops. Students are also given a $400 scholarship for completing the program and funds for professional clothing.

Líderes Avanzando got its start when Somos CWRU, a committee of faculty and staff at the university, was awarded a 2018-19 CWRU Seed Spirit grant to research and report best practices of other competitive institutions that had higher Latinx satisfaction, retention and completion rates.

As a result, Somos CWRU collaborated with Esperanza Inc.—a leading nonprofit organization in Cleveland which exists to improve the academic achievement of Hispanics in the area—to adapt a national Líderes Avanzando program from UnidosUS to CWRU. Since its inception, more than 30 students at the university have benefited from its programming and resources—and a more culturally aware, hands-on approach to navigating a highly competitive institution. This includes CWRU student Xuxa Rossi. 

Rossi, who was a part of the 2020-21 cohort, said the Líderes Avanzando program is the reason she landed her first internship. She utilized the program’s resources to get her resume examined by three people, and the first person, she said, “completely tore” her resume apart—respectfully, of course. 

With her new and improved resume, Rossi felt confident enough to apply to internships, and she was offered one the following week. 

“I loved the experience and I am so glad Líderes gave me that opportunity,” she said. “It was through Líderes that I finally got a LinkedIn account and an email signature. It was the small things they taught us about being a leader that really impacted us [and allowed us to] stand out in an applicant pool—and as leaders. As Latinos, we need to go the extra mile to stand out and Lideres Avanzando really helped us get there.”

Learn more about Esperanza and find out more about CWRU’s Líderes Avanzando program.