The Student News Site of Bellevue East High School

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The Student News Site of Bellevue East High School

The Tom Tom

The Student News Site of Bellevue East High School

The Tom Tom

Latino Center offers students resources

José Avalos
Discussion time. At an Ollin meeting on Dec. 4 (from left) sophomores Samuel Kucinsky, David Baker, Xavier Swotek, Ivan Gomez, and Joel Aguirre discuss the meaning of palabra, meaning “word” in Spanish. Ollin is the young men’s leadership group with the Latino Center of the Midlands. “While these initiatives are framed as leadership development programs, they extend far beyond that.They function as healing circles, offering a secure space for individuals to express themselves [and] share their experiences,” Ollin facilitator José Avalos said.

Since its founding in 1971, the Latino Center of the Midlands has offered education programs, community groups, and internships to provide opportunities for the Latino community in Omaha. The Pathways to Success programs– including the Ollin and Xochikalli talking circles and school attendance program– strive to help young people grow as students and individuals.

The Ollin program for young men, and Xochikalli program for young women, meet once a week during Advisory at Bellevue East. These meetings provide a space to discuss topics such as goal setting, personal identity, healthy relationships, substance abuse, and more.

“These forums encourage students to express themselves freely, think independently, and engage in a safe space where they are acknowledged, valued, and heard… the program seeks to broaden their mindset, providing tools to navigate challenges [and] make informed decisions,” José Avalos, the Ollin facilitator at East, said.

The Latino Center of the Midlands also offers a School Attendance Program, where students work with a mentor to address attendance barriers. The attendance program provides resources such as career training, job opportunities, and after- school programming. According to the center’s website, 64% of students involved in a Pathways to Success program improved school attendance.

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“We work with students who are in tier 2, which is basically students who have missed 10 or 15 days of school… the attendance program is more so focused on helping students learn ways to adjust and come to school. And basically having an extra hand and an extra resource at the school that they probably don’t have at home or anywhere else,” student advocate Kathy Lopez said.

The goals of these programs are to provide resources for students and help prepare them for adulthood. The Latino Center of the Midlands’ programs have helped students heal, learn, and grow in all aspects of their lives, according to Avalos.

“It’s actually taught [me] a lot,” sophomore Xavier Swotek said. “We talk about the words, what Ollin actually means, and it’s four values, owning up to your actions… loyalty, responsibility, all that.”

The Pathways for Success Programs began in 2011. The Latino Center of the Midlands also offers family and community wellness programs, adult education, citizenship preparation, language classes, internship opportunities, and more.

“We also offer an internship program called Siembra Nebraska and it’s basically based off of 5 things,” Lopez said. “It’ll be like health, agriculture, construction, social media, the last one is just based on your own career interests. It’s during the summer and we choose a bunch of students who are between 16 and 24 and they do an internship program with the center.”

According to the U.S. Census, Latinos make up 19% of the U.S. population and 25% of school-aged children. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that Latinos are less likely than other racial groups to graduate high school. Such difficulty with school may be due to financial struggles, lack of educational connections, or not speaking English.

“I’ve only been in it for this year but so far I’ve learned a lot about values and what you need in life,” Swotek said. “I feel like it’s helped me a lot, even with grades and everything too.”

To join the Ollin or Xochicalli circles, a student must be nominated by a friend, parent, teacher, or themselves. If the student agrees to join and a parent gives permission, then they can attend an informational meeting. The programs are open to everyone.

“We are there as a resource, especially for the Latino or Hispanic community here in Bellevue… I think it’s important to help out fellow Latinos and just people in general, cause also, this program isn’t just for Latinos, it can be for anyone. A lot of the times people from different races will come for help and so it’s important that, although it’s called the Latino Center of the Midlands, anybody could use the resources to help,” Lopez said.

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About the Contributor
Victoria Bogatz, Entertainment Editor and Social Media Manager
Hi! My name is Victoria, and I’m the entertainment editor and social media manager for the Bellevue East Tom Tom. I love writing, running, playing piano, activism and food. Fun fact: My favorite color is purple.

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