Students at three City University of New York colleges are taking part in an innovative technology program aimed at helping more Hispanics in the United States and Puerto Rico complete their formal education and bridge the digital divide.
Lehman College and Hostos Community College in the Bronx, and LaGuardia Community College in Queens, are among nine campuses in four states and Puerto Rico participating in the program which is being introduced by the Hispanic Educational Telecommunications System (HETS) through a partnership agreement with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) and the IBM Corporation.
The HETS e-Mentoring Program, now in its pilot phase, offers a service of online mentors to support undergraduate college students. Approximately 60 mentor prospects from IBM have already signed up to offer guidance and support. To participate via e-mail, mentors and students register at the Virtual Learning and Support Plaza, the new HETS bilingual e-learning portal. It is one of the first inter-institutional efforts designed to help overcome distance-learning barriers.
Information about volunteer e-mentors will be electronically matched to requests from students who register at the Virtual Plaza web site at www.virtualplaza.org.
“Through e-mail, undergraduate students learn strategies to overcome barriers and challenges that would otherwise block their way to achieving their goals,” said Dr. Nitza Hernandez, HETS executive director. “Online mentoring is meant to occur within a Hispanic cultural environment where mentors are call Cyber-padrinos and Cyber-madrinas, and mentees are called Ahijados/Ahijadas.”
IBM Corporation will offer mentors and success measurement through its Diversity Network Groups. HACU’s role in the pilot program is to assist IBM and HETS in evaluating the program and to provide guidance in taking the project to other Hispanic-serving institutions.
The program is funded in part by a grant from the Learning Anytime Anywhere Partnerships program under the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education.
The City University of New York, the nation’s leading urban public university, comprises 11 senior colleges, six community colleges, a graduate school, a law school and a medical school. Nearly 198,000 degree-credit students and more than 205,000 adult and continuing education students are enrolled throughout the five boroughs of the City of New York.