When Gina Ponce decided she wanted to open Bellevue University’s El Camino Latino Center (bellevue.edu/student-support/el-camino-latino), she had two goals in mind: Serve incoming and current Latino students and their families and connect them directly with community business partners.
Ponce, who has been in Omaha, NE for over 30 years serving the Latino community, is the director of El Camino Latino Center. For many years a Latino center was just an idea, but that idea came to light last August when El Camino Latino Center opened inside the Freeman/Lozier Library on the campus of Bellevue University, 1028 Bruin Blvd.
“El Camino translates to ‘the road’ and we believe it represents a path forward that will change the way the university supports and engages with Latino students,” Ponce said.
To provide that path forward, the Center’s focus is to connect Latino students to career counseling, workforce opportunities with employers in Bellevue and Omaha, financial aid and academic advising, and more so they can achieve their education goals and find the career of their dreams.
What makes the Center unique is how it connects future and current students to its business partners. Each local business employer partner has a physical office space on campus in the Center where students can learn about various opportunities like internships and career options across several industries.
El Camino Latino Center currently partners with six organizations including Omaha Bridges, Mundo Latino Newspaper, Heartland Workforce Center, U.S. Bank, Women on a Mission for Change, and Goodwill Industries. Each partner serves as a connection for students to meet professionals where they can learn about various opportunities and careers.
“We give incoming students and current students the support they need to be really successful when they’re at Bellevue University,” Ponce said. “The Center provides additional support in the form of mentoring, networking events, conferences, and through connecting students with different employment opportunities. We want students to apply for jobs in the fields they’ve studied in college and this Center makes sure that happens.”
Moises Saucedo, the Center’s college experience coach, also helps to ensure Latino students who attend Bellevue University excel. In his position, he oversees outreach of future students and helps facilitate their journey from start to finish to ensure they’re successful at Bellevue University. He also connects students to the right opportunities with the Center’s business partners.
“We provide partners with office space so they can be closer to the students,” Saucedo said. “Connecting our students to the right people and opportunities while providing a great support system through Bellevue University’s El Camino Latino Center allows students to develop their skills through mentorship and real-world experiences which propels them to be excellent future leaders.”
For more information about El Camino Latino Center and how you can become a business partner, contact Director of El Camino Latino Center Gina Ponce at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (402) 557-7252, or visit bellevue.edu/student-support/el-camino-latino.