2017 Villamaría program to focus on school counselor support for Latino students

2017 Villamaría program to focus on school counselor support for Latino students

Aug. 15, 2017

Villamaría at Maryville College will host “Villamaría 2017: Meeting the Challenge: Supporting Higher Education Dreams of Latinx Students and Families” from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. on Fri., Sept. 15 in the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall.

The event is free and open to the public, but prior registration is required by Wed.., Sept. 6 (see maryvillecollege.edu/villamaria). The program includes continental breakfast and a buffet lunch.

Villamaría (which means “Maryville” in Spanish) at Maryville College is an initiative that seeks to build and strengthen relationships with the Latino community. The program also aims to improve and increase access to Maryville College and other higher education opportunities for Latino students from East Tennessee.

Programming for Villamaría 2017 includes presentations aimed at supporting school counselors and other K-12 personnel in their work to empower Latino students and families toward higher education opportunities.

Karla Coleman García, policy manager for Conexión Américas, will provide the keynote address, titled "Defending the Dream: Best Practices in Advising Undocumented & DACA Students."

"I am inspired by the powerful stories of resilience and hope that I have heard from undocumented students and their families,” said Dr. Crystal Colter, associate professor of psychology and organizer of the Sept. 15 event. “I support the high school and college students I have worked with who are DACA recipients. They are indeed Dreamers working for a better future for themselves, their families, and the communities they live in … with our support, indeed they will build a better future for this great country they call home.”

Conexión Américas awarded a $30,000 grant to Maryville College to bring concrete resources and programs to Latino students, K-12 and college and university staff, and partner organizations; to build formal and informal networks of support for Latino students and for organizations who wish to support these students; and to bring hope and inspiration to Latino students and their families and in the form of access, opportunity, information and advocacy, empowering them toward higher education opportunities.

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of East Tennessee, Centro Hispano de East Tennessee and HoLa Hora Latina also serve as ongoing partners to the Villamaría at Maryville College initiative.

Colter said the event’s mission is to “listen and learn from the Latino communities in our region, including our wonderful community partners, in order to support Latino students’ aspirations toward a college education.”

“It is our hope that this event will foster conversation and collaboration that lead to increased and improved resources for Latino students in East Tennessee who desire to pursue higher education,” Colter added.

Discussions at previous Villamaría events have inspired new opportunities such as the Latino College and Resource Fair in Knoxville, an idea developed and successfully implemented in the fall of 2015 by a team of people led by ProjectGRAD Knoxville staff, with assistance from community partners, including Maryville College.

The ongoing conference also led to Colter’s fall 2017 sabbatical project, a college preparation and mentoring program for Hispanic students at Lenoir City High School, in collaboration with Kelli Ierulli Nehf ‘10 and Jeff Sweeney, who also served as school counselors at Lenoir City High School during the project. The group presented the project in July at the American School Counselors Association.

Other conference sessions will include: a panel of Latinx students who will share their experiences; a mixed panel of school counselors and college admissions personnel who will share lessons learned and best practices; and lunchtime roundtable discussions of topics proposed by attendees. There will also be an optional afternoon social time from 3:30 until 5:30 p.m. at Sullivan’s in downtown Maryville to process the day and brainstorm future initiatives together.

To register, please visit maryvillecollege.edu/villamaria. For additional information, please email villamaria@maryvillecollege.edu or call 865.981.8269.


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2017 semester is 1,181.