OTTUMWA — The kids from Al Éxito have been busy this year.

Al Éxito, which is Spanish for “To Success,” is a statewide, grant-funded organization that encourages Latino high school students to attend higher education. Its members at OHS have a proven record of academic achievement. Out of the 10 Al Éxito students who graduated OHS in 2018, nine went onto college this fall. Two received full-ride scholarships.

Earlier this month, the students attended the Golden Circle College and Career Fair, which the club attends every fall.

“I think it went fairly well,” said Juanita Weyenberg, Al Éxito coordinator at OHS.

The students who attended got to speak with representatives from different colleges and learn about majors, athletics, clubs, and housing information. There was also ACT information available for first-generation students, which Weyenberg said was important because their families are often unfamiliar with the exam’s ins and outs.

There was even the option for students to enroll at the colleges they were interested in. Guadalupe Ramirez, a senior at OHS, was torn between attending UNI, William Penn, or Indian Hills before she attended Golden Circle.

“I’m pretty family oriented, so I want to stay close to home,” she said.

Ramirez wants to work as a high school math teacher before getting a master’s degree in school administration. Teaching-related scholarships were what ultimately drew her to UNI. Her goal is to some day work as an elementary school principal.

“That’s my dream, elementary principal,” she said. “I just love kids.”

When representatives from UNI visited OHS the following day, she made sure to enroll.

Yuleni Curiel, a freshman, already had her eyes set on dentistry. Despite it being her first time attending Golden Circle, she arrived already knowing which representatives she’d make sure to speak with. Coe College’s dentistry program caught her eye, because of the school’s proximity to a health center and its dentistry internships.

Weyenberg said the fair is valuable even for students who may not yet know which college they want to go to. Different reps and advisors at Golden Circle can help students pick which classes to take while they’re still in high school, so they’re prepared for whatever college they ultimately decide to attend.

The Al Éxito students aren’t taking a break, with more events lined up throughout the month. On Thursday they attended a “speed dating” job fair at Grand View University, where they got to spend 15 minutes chatting with representatives of different professions. Doctors, teachers, and engineers were present. Later this month, they’ll attend the Latino Youth Summit at the University of Iowa.

The club is also now holding a bilingual story time event at the Ottumwa Public Library. Starting Oct. 10, the meetings will run through December and meet weekly every Thursday, from 6 — 7 p.m.

Jack Langland can be reached at jlangland@ottumwacourier.com.

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