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Hacia la Universidad (Toward the University)

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Program Name: 
Hacia la Universidad (Toward the University)

Having an impact on: High School Graduation, Postsecondary Enrollment

When a woman is given an opportunity to earn an income, she will first invest it in her children.

This belief, shared by organizations around the world, is what led Susan Matteucci and the other founders of Southwest Creations Collaborative to first open their doors at San Jose Parish in 1994. The intent was to provide dignified, living wage employment for women from low-income communities. Contracts were negotiated and women were paid to do sewing and handwork.

Matteuci, who serves as executive director, explains that while many things have changed, one thing is consistent: Southwest Creations takes a whole-family approach to education.

A result of the approach: Hacia La Universidad (Toward the University). It’s the organization’s strategy for supporting students on their path to college while simultaneously supporting the whole family. High school students receive tutoring and mentoring, and attend workshops with their families that help prepare them for graduation and college. Meanwhile, family members work in the factory; attend on-site GED classes; drop their children in the low-cost, on-site childcare; and meet with advisors to plan for the future.

In 2012, Hacia la Universidad extended its work when it began a pilot program with Albuquerque Public schools which focuses on the cluster with the highest achievement gap between white and Latino students. Their efforts are concentrated with Albuquerque High School, Washington Middle School, and Reginald Chavez Elementary School. 

Today, more than 250 children have gone through day care and on to school. Their GED pass rate is at 80 percent, and they have a 98 percent high school graduation rate and 86 percent of their students attend college.

“It’s key to work inter-generationally,” explains Susan. “Part of that is offering parents paid leave for school engagement. The family grows and learns together – so much so that raises are tied to their child’s school performance.”

Purpose and Goals

Hacia la Universidad (Toward the University) is Southwest Creations Collaborative’s K-12 college readiness strategy that engages and inspires whole families as they navigate the pipeline to college. The community-based organization has a long-term commitment to supporting working families by delivering proven strategies that equip all students with the tools for success.

Population Served

Hacia la Universidad serves students and families in Albuquerque who are the first generation to go to college. There is a special focus on Latino families.

Strategies used to achieve goals

  • Success planning: The program provides annual individual and family advising with a student-driven asset-based approach to improving grades, attendance, and extracurricular participation.
  • Family and student workshops: Participants build skills, networks, and analysis that working families need to be college ready.
  • Weekly tutoring and mentoring: Volunteers from the University of New Mexico’s (UNM’s) School of Engineering tutor students in math and science.
  • College campus visits: Students and families are taken on tours of the CNM and UNM campuses, with a focus on career exploration, college life, admissions, financial as well as student support, and cultural programs.
  • College transitions coaching: Staff supports high school juniors and seniors in navigating the high-school-to-college pipeline and connecting with on-campus resources for assistance with admissions and financial aid.
  • 360 degree Support: Staff provides resource connections to a variety of family support services, especially in education, mental health, violence prevention and eluding the school-to-prison pipeline. 

How much do we do?

  • In 2015-16, the program worked with 310 families with children from grades K-12.
  • In 2015-16, 78 program participants were high school seniors from ten different local high schools.

How well do we do it?

The program has collected qualitative data on the quality of student experiences. Examples:

  • “I appreciate Hacia la Universidad’s time and the interest they show in helping families and students. Thank you!” – Parent of HU middle school student
  • “Hacia helped my parents get a sense of what my experience would be like in college.” – Class of 2015 HU graduate, current UNM student.

Is anyone better off?

  • From 2010 to 2016, 88% (226/257) of program twelfth graders graduated in four years and 4% (11/257) graduated in five or more years, bringing Hacia la Universidad’s total graduation rate to 92% over the last 6 years. In comparison, Albuquerque Public Schools’ 4-year graduation rate for 2014 was only 63%.
  • From 2010 to 2016, 81% (208/257) of program twelfth graders were admitted to college.


Website: http://www.southwestcreations.com/hacia-la-universidad
Phone: (505) 898-6388
Email: info@HorizonsAlbuquerque.org

To be selected for a Bright Spot, a program had to provide evidence that children or adults touched by their interventions were better off after participating. While the strength of evidence varied from program to program, all Bright Spots were able to show – at minimum – a correlation between participation in their program and positive outcomes. Those with stronger evidence provided pre- and post-data on participants in comparison to a similar group that did not participate. 

Go to All Systems Go Annual Data Report