LNESC Celebrates 50 Years of Changing Students’ Lives

Joe Arce and Corey Crable

KC Hispanic News

Mar 9, 2023

This year, LULAC National Education Service Centers (LNESC) celebrates five decades of making a difference in the lives of Latino and minority students. LNESC, founded in 1973, connects those students with educational and leadership programs that will help them succeed in the classroom and become future leaders of their communities. Originally housed in theGuadalupe Centers’ Westside headquarters building, the Kansas City LULAC center alone serves states between Washington, D.C., and Colorado.

There, students and their families can access a rich variety of services, including its Upward Bound program, college coaching and college access, and even classes on learning digital skills. 
Dr. Michael Macias, director of Kansas City’s LULAC Center, adds that the center can even act as a first job out of school for its more successful students. 
“We provide funding through a student’s first two years of college, typically through employment (at the center,” Macias explains. “I’ll hire previous students as tutors, and I’ll hire our college-graduate students as teachers.” 
The opportunities that the center offers keep growing because the Latino population keeps growing, says Macias, who has served as director for 16 years. “The demand has just grown exponentially, and I know from the 2010 census, Philadelphia had the number one growth of Hispanics in the nation, and Kansas City was number two. Many of our schools here have a high Latino population such as Wyandotte High School and JC Harmon, which have over 80 percent.” 
Macias keeps in contact with universities in the region as he prepares those high school students for a collegiate career. 

“I’ve had to strengthen relationships with different universities, and I will go and advocate for these students because, unfortunately at times, these students do not score well on the ACT, but they are extremely intelligent, and they have the potential to be extremely successful in a college environment. So, I will facilitate an introduction, and the student has to facilitate the rest.” 

One of the ways Macias tries to prepare local students for college
is through the center’s leadership program, which is offered at LULAC’s other field centers throughout the country. One local woman who has benefitted from the program is Adriana Pecina, who was a LULAC student while a high school sophomore.  “My LULAC counselor was Teresa Rodriguez. ... She helped me with the whole process of selecting a college and applying for scholarships,” says Pecina. “She made that whole process smoother because she was here to support my parents and I in this process.”

Pecina also says that LULAC provided her with her first post- college job.

“I volunteered with them, and it was my first job out of college. I was there when we started the Hispanic Leadership Opportunity Program (HLOP),” Pecina recalls. “It allowed us to select students from the area to bring them through this program during high school. I think it was a life-changing experience for these students and their families. I was very proud of that.”
Another former student whose educational experience was enriched by LULAC is Joanna Perez, who got her younger brother and sister to join as well while going to JC Harmon High School. In addition to being guided toward scholarships that would help fund their college careers – Joanna graduated in three and a half years and her sister in three – Perez says she appreciated the opportunity to meet other young Latino leaders, too.
“Myself and my sister were able to travel to conferences with (Macias), so it allowed us to meet other students across the U.S. from all walks of life,” Perez explains. “It helped solidify my decision that I wanted to go to law school and give back to the community.” Pecina says she is proud of Macias and Kansas City’s field center, too, for touching so many lives over the years.
“I’d like to congratulate Mike on his hard work and keeping the mission of LNESC alive for those children who need it the most in our region,” Pecina says.
Macias, however, says it’s the students who deserve the congratulations. “We are only facilitators. We simply arm them with the skills and knowledge to be successful,” he says. “But we will try to guide them through that process. We arm them with the things we think will help them be successful.”
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