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Latino Student Fund

In the last 24 years, the Latino Student Fund has served more than 4,000 students across all its programs. President & CEO Maria-Fernanda Borja is justifiably proud that 100% of students graduate from high school and enroll in post-secondary education.

Tell us about the Latino Student Fund.

The mission of the Latino Student Fund is to provide opportunities for strong academic foundations for underserved pre-K to 12th grade students to promote higher education and professional leadership. We were founded in 1994 by community leaders to address the growing high school dropout rates among Hispanic students in Washington, DC.

What services do you provide to your community?

Over the years, the Latino Student Fund has continued to strengthen and expand our services to meet the evolving educational needs of our community. Today we offer eight programs under three programmatic areas: academic support, post-secondary success and family resources:

Academic support includes pre-K to 12th grade, a tutoring program that reinforces math and English skills and a rising-journalist program for middle school students, which improves civic engagement, English, reading, and writing as well as critical thinking. This program is for English Language Learner (ELL) students.

Post-secondary success includes Te Guio, a year-round mentoring program; Listo, an after-school college prep program; and Listo Rápido, a college boot camp designed to increase high school graduation rates and promote college enrollment.

Then, we have Family Resources that include English as a Second Language for parents. We also have workshops that are designed to help parents navigate work, home and life experiences, as well as the Access Program that provides support for students applying to independent and parochial schools for pre-K to 12th grade in the Washington, D.C., area.

All of our programs are free of charge. We offer them in English and in Spanish and we have additional languages such as Amharic (one of the principal languages of Ethiopia).

What sets your organization apart from others in your community?

We are the only organization that supports students from pre-K to 12th grade as well as their families. There are different programs in the community that focus specifically on elementary school students or middle school students or high school students but there is not a program like ours that supports all grades and their families.

Tell us a story that clearly illustrates the good work you are doing.

A student was visiting the US for the first time with his father from Ethiopia. As their visa was coming to an end and they were set to depart back to Ethiopia, the father abandoned the student at the Dallas airport.

The father said he was going to the restroom, but he never returned. The student, who was 14 years old, was outside the airport, just sitting and waiting and waiting. A taxi driver, who spoke Amharic, which is the student’s native language, asked him what was going on. The student explained what happened and the taxi driver brought him to Child Protective Services.

He was placed with a foster mother, and she tried to help in different ways right away. He started our program a year ago and we immediately set him up with a mentor. He learned English quickly and he was very competent. We helped him apply to different colleges and universities. Even though he didn’t have the papers that we usually need to work with, we have relationships with universities that help us with different scholarships for undocumented students. We were able to help pair him with a school, and he’s now going to go to college.

This is just one of many stories from our students that demonstrate the impact the Latino Student Fund can have for our families.

The Latino Student Fund has continued to strengthen and expand our services to meet the evolving educational needs of our community.

What is your greatest achievement or contribution to the community?

I think the low college graduation rate in minority students can be attributed in part to the lack of appropriate resources. Parents are left not knowing how to navigate the process while they juggle multiple jobs and don’t have enough time to help their children.  That’s where the Latino Student Fund can step in and help students apply to college, explore future career choices, apply for scholarships and so much more. Last year our seniors raised over $5 million in scholarship and financial aid.  We have many students that are going to college on full scholarships.  

What is the most important thing you want people to know about The Latino Student Fund?

I think the most important thing people should know about the Latino Student Fund is that our number one goal is to help our families and their students’ dreams become reality.

We support underserved students from pre-K to 12th grade. All of our services are free and our doors are open to anyone that needs our service, not just Hispanic students. We also have a large number of students from Ethiopia, and we also have students from Asia.

Our number one goal is to help our families and their students’ dreams become reality.

How are you using the funds you’ve received from the Giant Food Community Bag Program?

These funds will help us expand our programs and reach more students and families in need. Thanks to the Giant Community Bag Program, we were able to accept more students into all of our different programs and cut down our waitlist.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

First of all, I want to thank Giant Food! The first year we were selected as the beneficiary for the Community Bag Program we did great but the second year we did even better, and we were not expecting that.

We are close to our 30-year anniversary, and we are so happy that we have been able to expand our services. It’s because of people and companies like Giant Food that we’re able to continue supporting more students and helping the community.

Maria-Fernanda Borja joined Latino Student Fund in March 2004 and was appointed President & CEO in March 2015. She was named one of the 100 Most Influential People for the Hispanic Community of the Washington D.C. Metro Area and 2017 Non-Profit Organization Leader of the Year. She has also received the NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award.