Skip to Main Site Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Back To Top

Eastern announces partnership with Hispanic Alliance of Southeastern Connecticut

Published on May 17, 2022

Eastern announces partnership with Hispanic Alliance of Southeastern Connecticut

Eastern President Elsa Núñez and Claudio Melendez-Cooper, executive director of the Hispanic Alliance of Southeastern Connecticut, sign an agreement on behalf of their organizations. 

On May 16, Eastern Connecticut State University signed a historic partnership agreement with the Hispanic Alliance of Southeastern Connecticut to offer scholarships to students from Latino communities in southeast Connecticut. Eastern is the first Connecticut state university to partner with the alliance.

Provost William Salka opened the signing ceremony by noting Eastern’s commitment to providing a “public liberal arts education to students from underrepresented populations,” and applauded the new partnership for helping Eastern to expand opportunities to Latino students.

Eastern will match Hispanic Alliance scholarships up to $2,500 for each recipient attending the university full time, so long as the recipient has financial need greater than or equal to the same. Matching funds will be awarded each spring for the upcoming academic year, with funds disbursed evenly across the fall and spring semesters. Recipients must maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA to be eligible for matching funds in the following year, and must reapply for the scholarship annually.

Claudio Melendez-Cooper
Claudio Melendez-Cooper, executive director of the Hispanic Alliance of Southeastern Connecticut 

In fall 2022, as many as six scholarships are expected to be awarded. Students will come largely from 11 high schools in the New London area, with an application process that includes an essay, high school transcripts, letters of recommendation and an evaluation rubric. A scholarship committee of 10-15 people reviews applications and makes the scholarship awards.

“This is such a wonderful honor for Eastern to have the Hispanic Alliance welcome us into this partnership; I could not be more delighted,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. She indicated that Eastern has been ranked #1 in New England among public regional universities three years in a row by U.S. News & World Report, and was also ranked #1 in 2022 as a “Best Value” college for its affordability. “We can be elite without being elitist.”

Núñez cited Eastern’s past history of being a national leader in helping students of color, beginning with Eastern’s Dual College Enrollment program, which began 15 years ago when a cohort of Hartford Public High School students enrolled at Eastern, to current partnerships with the Hartford Promise and New Haven Promise. In 2016, Eastern was one of only two universities in the country to pilot a partnership with TheDream.US foundation, which provides scholarships to “Opportunity Scholars” — undocumented students denied access to a public college education in their home states. Many of those students are from Latino communities. Today, Eastern is TheDream.US’s largest partner.

Núñez also said that over the past 10 years, the retention rate of Latino students at Eastern has averaged 76 percent, reflecting the 77 percent overall retention rate of all Eastern students in 2020–21, the most recent reporting year.

“These new scholarships, through this partnership with the Hispanic Alliance, are a symbol of Eastern’s continued commitment to helping students from all economic backgrounds afford a college degree,” concluded Núñez.

Press conference pano Claudio Melendez-Cooper, executive director of the Hispanic Alliance, said, “This was a vision that began more than 20 years ago. Over the past 22 years, the Alliance has provided more than 300 scholarships to students attending 2- and 4-year colleges and universities. We could not have achieved this without the help of everyone in the community, building a network to help all our clients. We are happy that Eastern is joining our network to help mentor and provide financial support to Latinos graduating from high school, and to inspire our students to get an education. We hope this will be a model for all to see.”

Melendez-Cooper’s father, the late Alejandro Melendez-Cooper, founded the Alliance in 2000 by walking door to door to raise funds and highlight the importance of a college education among the Latino community. 

Nunez and Melendez-Cooper

“This partnership is a big deal for us,” said Maria Anpono Cruz Saco, professor of economics at Connecticut College and secretary of the Hispanic Alliance. Alliance President Julie Kushigian-Secor agreed: “I am excited about the potential for this program. Currently, many of our students believe that college is not affordable. Now with this partnership, they can plan to go to college because they can see that it is affordable at Eastern!”

Associate Provost Jennifer Brown said Eastern will also participate in the Alliance’s BRILLA program, which provides summer leadership programming to Latina high school students with the goal of encouraging them to go to college. Two groups of BRILLA students will visit Eastern this year under terms of the agreement.

She said Eastern participation also includes students visiting campus each summer for tours, meeting with staff from the offices of Admissions and Opportunity Programs and observing a college class in progress. “Our Office of Opportunity Programs is a friendly, known space that students feel comfortable in.” The office offers a range of services ranging from financial literacy seminars to study skills workshops and social activities, while providing cohort students with someone they can trust and reach out to for support.

David Galvez ’23 of New London, who double majors in Accounting and Music, is one Hispanic Alliance scholarship recipients. “I received a $1,000 Alliance scholarship as a freshman, but this year, with this new partnership, I received a $2,500 scholarship, which Eastern will match with an additional $2,500. This is a huge blessing.”

Under terms of the agreement, Eastern and the Hispanic Alliance will promote their partnership through their websites; information sessions; communications with high school principals and guidance counselors; and other communications.  Eastern will also host events in New London to help Latino students prepare for college.

Written by Dwight Bachman

Categories: Administration