Barton Community College is stepping up its efforts to recruit and retain Hispanic students, administrators said. At Tuesday’s BCC Board of Trustees meeting, Vice President of Student Services Angie Maddie and Baudilio Hernandez talked about the college’s Hispanic Recruitment and Engagement Office (HERO). Hernandez became director of the office in April.
He has worked for the college before, Maddy noted. He has been an adviser for Central Kansas Upward Bound. Before coming to Barton, he owned and operated his own business while he was a full-time student at Fort Hays State University. He graduated from FHSU in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a certificate in human resource management. He is a graduate of BCC and a former Barton County Upward Bound participant. He also sponsors the Hispanic American Leadership Organization (HALO) at Barton.
“He is an example of us growing one of our own leaders from high school on,” Maddy said.
College trustees have been watching population trends for some time. Last November, Dean of Institutional Effectiveness Charles Perkins reported that by 2032, the only growth in the Golden Belt could be younger Hispanic males and females.
“Just in the community, most of you can probably tell how much it’s been growing,” Maddy said. According to Pew research figures from 2014, Barton County’s population that year was 14 percent Hispanic, a 67 percent increase from 2000. Rice, Russell, Ellsworth, Rush, Pawnee and Stafford counties all saw their Hispanic populations increase by 62 to 163 percent during that time frame.
While the Hispanic population is the fast-growing demographic for central Kansas, Maddy acknowledged that the college does not yet have a lot of diversity in its own employee pool. Hernandez has been successful in making contacts with students who think about college but don’t follow through after high school.
“A lot of times, students just don’t decide to take the leap,” she said. They may have concerns about exposing family members with documentation issues, or they may need help filling out financial aid forms.
Hernandez has an office in the Student Union that serves as a “home base” for students to come to for any support needed. This is part of the effort to retain students after they are recruited.
Hernandez and Maddy told the board the main goal of HERO is to educate current and prospective students on the importance of post-secondary or higher education and assist them with these processes at Barton.
“Bringing them to Barton and keeping them here until they earn a degree or certificate is vital,” presentation materials stated. “The Hispanic population is growing at an accelerated rate and we need services to serve this population. There is a great need for support and knowledge of post-secondary education in the Hispanic population; for prospective students and their families, this program will help fill this void.”
Once students are recruited, the HERO office seeks to retain them, steering students to leadership opportunities within the Hispanic American Leadership Organization (HALO) and in other ways. These include everything from cultural visits and events to help with applications for enrollment and financial aid, as well as career exploration and advisement.
Hernandez said his office receives early alerts of students who are missing classes, and he has been known to visit them personally to talk about why attendance is important.
Trustees praised Hernandez for the work he is doing and suggested he also reach out to the Chamber of Commerce. The growing number of Hispanic business owners might be interested in knowing how the college is working to develop future leaders, chairman Mike Johnson suggested.
“It’s great that you’ve hit the ground running,” Johnson said to Hernandez. “In a couple of years we’ll have competition from other colleges (for these students). As community colleges, we know the only demographic that’s growing in the state of Kansas is the Hispanic population.”
Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman noted that the college has plans to hire an adviser for the HERO office included in its budget.