Luis Cecenas, a recent graduate of the local Drury program, started making high school visits to local schools in January, making connections with graduating seniors and their families, helping them navigate the sometimes-complicated enrollment and financial processes.
"Right now, when I talk to parents about virtually free federal aid, they are shocked and amazed," Cecenas said "They have never had opportunities like this before."
Many non-English-speaking parents are unfamiliar with the educational system in the United States, and Cecenas is available to explain the vast opportunities available to Latinos in this community.
"The system is terrible down there. Students in Mexico would not have the same educational opportunities that they have here," Cecenas said. "Once past the sixth grade, parents would have to start paying for their children to attend school. Higher education is available to students in Mexico, but at a huge cost."
Cecenas said being bi-lingual is a gift that benefits both the campus and the Hispanic community.
"Many parents speak little or no English," Cecenas said. "I am able to communicate with them the possibilities for their student. They are excited. A lot of [Latino] parents have not gone to college and are unfamiliar with the process.
"I also recommend that the students take Spanish classes," Cecenas said. "Although they speak conversational Spanish, many students have never been taught to read, write or the proper grammar for Spanish. They speak slang.
"By taking Spanish classes, they not only improve their Spanish reading and writing abilities, they improve their professional grammar," Cecenas said. "I took the classes and they pushed me. It will challenge other students."
Cecenas reaches out to students wherever they are -- at school, in church, in the community.
"I try to get students to determine what they can achieve," Cecenas said.
Cecenas serves as a recruiter, academic advisor and financial counselor for members of the Hispanic community seeking a higher education.
"If these students don't go to college, many of their opportunities are limited to local industries," Cecenas said. "About 30 percent of the Latino community are working places like Tyson Foods or George's, Inc. They usually end up working in a factory.
"A majority of students are looking for business, leadership and entrepreneurial opportunities," Cecenas said. "In the Hispanic culture, if you have the opportunity, you are business-minded."
Cecenas said that generally, the college is looking for at least a score of 21 on the ACT test, but said the college is also able to work with students who have not scored that high.
"We find that some students also want to attend community college or go into a technical field," Cecenas said.
"Drury focuses on the opportunities we have for students here in this community," he continued. "We offer general education courses, behaviorial sciences, leadership and business classes. Students may have to take a couple of online classes or attend a couple of classes at the Springfield campus, but most can be taken here in Monett."
Cecenas said he is seeing a surge in Hispanic enrollments at the Monett campus.
"There is a large amount of interest," Cecenas said. "Even students who were not considering going to college are now looking into it. I won't stop until each student has the chance to fulfill their potential."
Office hours are from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. or by appointment Monday through Friday at the Drury campus in Monett, located at 400 Fourth Street. For more information, call 236-2007.