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By Tammy Lane
Fayette County Public Schools
A new club at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School wants to make sure fellow Hispanic students feel comfortable on campus, even before they arrive.
The Latino Outreach Leaders, which formed late last semester, is partnering with Leestown Middle School to provide advice and guidance to students destined for Dunbar, where the population is about 17 percent Hispanic. About a dozen members dropped by Leestown one recent afternoon to introduce themselves and the LOL club.
“We’re about helping the Latino community be recognized for what they do for the (Lexington) community. Also, we want to inspire you guys to reach your potential,” junior Jesus Valencia told the handful of younger students gathered in the library.
LOL members encouraged the Leestown kids to get involved in high school activities and seek out internships and other real-world experience – all of which looks good on a college application. And they noted the importance of making a strong academic start as a freshman at Dunbar.
“We really want to interact and let them know it’s extremely important to get an education. Since Hispanics are the fastest-growing minority, it’ll be distressing (later) if a majority of the country is uneducated,” said junior Maria Ortiz.
The students also noted how LOL is great for networking and finding out about college scholarships and other opportunities in Fayette County and beyond. For instance, after receiving encouragement from Lexmark employees, several Dunbar students have stepped up to form Kentucky’s first junior chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.
The LOL club – a spinoff of the Student Technology Leadership Program at Dunbar – has taken off a lot faster than organizers anticipated, attracting some two dozen well-rounded members who are active in various school organizations and sports teams.
“Even this early, we’ve gotten a lot accomplished. We see LOL being a bigger part of the community,” Jesus predicted.
Responding to the need for information available in Spanish, LOL produces a monthly newsletter and manages a school web page for Hispanic students and local residents. In addition, members have met with representatives of the city’s Division of Parks & Recreation and the bilingual newspaper La Voz to discuss other outreach opportunities.