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Source: Amanda Morales, 785-532-7737, morales@k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Rosie Hoefling, 785-532-2535, media@k-state.edu

Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

PROGRAM HELPING LATINA, LATINO STUDENTS EARN TEACHING DEGREES IS HONORED

MANHATTAN -- A Kansas State University 2+2 program created for nontraditional Latino and Latina students who want to teach in southwest Kansas has received the 2010 Outstanding Service to Underserved Populations Award from the Association for Continuing Higher Education.

The award was presented at the association's recent annual conference in Albuquerque, N.M.

AccessUS was created by K-State's College of Education, College of Arts and Sciences and the Division of Continuing Education in partnership with three school districts -- Dodge City, Garden City and Ulysses -- and three community colleges -- Dodge City Community College, Garden City Community College and Seward County Community College.

"The purpose of AccessUS was to fill two needs: the need for highly qualified teachers willing to work in southwest Kansas, and more specifically, the need for bilingual teachers to work with the increasingly diverse student population in the region," said Amanda Morales, on-campus coordinator for AccessUS and program assistant in the department of curriculum and instruction.

The program primarily recruited bilingual Latina students working as paraprofessionals in schools in diverse southwest Kansas communities. Since the students already lived in these communities, Morales said it was more likely they would want to stay and teach there after earning their degrees.

Morales and Gayla Lohfink, on-site program coordinator for the College of Education, helped organize partnerships with several community colleges in southwest Kansas to fulfill the students' general education requirements. Partnership colleges included Dodge City Community College, Garden City Community College and Seward County Community College.

The upper-level education courses were taught by K-State faculty. Course delivery was through a variety of distance education methods, including teleconferencing, DVDs and more.

"We took the courses that we already offer on campus and developed hybrid versions of them," Morales said. "We modified the courses for delivery to the students in southwest Kansas, but still kept the same course quality and rigor, which isn’t always the easiest thing."

In addition to course instruction, the department of curriculum and instruction and the Division of Continuing Education also provided students with advising assistance, tutoring, scholarships and stipends for books and resource materials.

Funding for the program was provided by a U.S. Department of Education Equity and Access Grant to K-State's College of Education and funds from the Kansas Legislature.

Morales attributes the success of the program to accommodating the special needs of diverse, nontraditional students, including being flexible with their busy schedules and providing financial assistance whenever possible.

"I think it's a good example or testament to what can be accomplished when you're willing to collaborate for the good of students," she said. "It involved identifying a need and then everybody working toward fulfilling or addressing that need."