'College prep coach' makes college possible for more first generation students in Goshen

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Friday is the deadline for prospective college students to file for federal student aid or FASFA.

A new program in Elkhart County is helping students get through the college application process.

Goshen College is teaming up with the high school and the Community Foundation of Elkhart County to help make college possible for more students.

Marlette Gomez is Goshen High School's 'College Prep Coach.' She works with students who are the first in their family to go to college.

"I really enjoy walking through the process with the students individually, or in a group, because it kind of starts as a goal or a wish or a dream and turns into a reality when they figure out how to fill out this form, write this essay, or do an interview." Gomez said.

Alexa Valdez is a Senior at Goshen College and remembers what it was like to try and get there. She will soon be the first in her family to obtain a college degree.

"FAFSA seemed overwhelming, I didn't really know much about how to take out a student loan, I didn't know how to apply to colleges," Valdez said. "It was the first time my parents couldn't actually help me."

Richard Aguirre, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at Goshen College, says he remembers that feeling.

"Counselors today have little time that they can actually spend with students, talking to them about their future and preparing them for the next step after high school," Aguirre said. "In Indiana for example, there's a high student to counselor ratio. In some schools, some counselors spend 20 minutes throughout the entire school year actually helping kids get ready for college."

That's why he helped start a program with Gomez.

He says 53-percent of students at Goshen Community Schools are Latino, while roughly 32-percent of students in Concord and Elkhart schools are also Latino.

"It's difficult for them to help their son or daughter because they have no knowledge of how to fill out financial aid forms, how to apply to college, when you should visit a college, when you should apply for financial aid, or how you should write an essay for college," Aguirre said.

Adrianna Escobeto says she realized she wanted to go to Saint Mary's College and study engineering after working with Gomez.

"I actually feel like I'm not present now," Escobeto said. "To actually think more of what I'm going to do in my future and I feel like I'm making a patch with myself now."

Gomez says she was also a first-generation student and enjoys giving back.

"Just the attitudes and the characters of the students," she said. "It makes me really hopeful for our future in Goshen and Elkhart County to see more leaders, more growth and more education."

"When a kid sees someone who looks like them, who only a few years earlier was in their place, sitting in those high schools, preparing for college, they start to think, 'maybe I can do it,'" Aguirre said.

While Valdez says she didn't get to take part in this program, she says the long and sometimes confusing process of getting into college is worth it.

"I've been able to be in leadership positions that I wasn't able to do in high school," Valdez said. "It's definitely helped me prepare for the future and a career, especially in the field that I wanna be in."

This program started as a pilot project, but Goshen College officials are hoping to make it permanent.

Aguirre says the Community Foundation of Elkhart pays for the 'College Prep Coach' position.

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