La Salle University’s BUSCA program was named one of five finalists for the Examples of Excelencia in Education award in the category of associate’s degree programs. Excelencia in Education is a non-profit organization whose mission is to accelerate Latino student success in higher education.
BUSCA was selected from among competitors from 26 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
“By sharing what works we hope to support educators, community leaders, funders, and policymakers to take an asset-based approach to serving Latino students,” wrote Deborah Santiago, COO and Vice President of Excelencia in Education in What Works for Latinos Students in Higher Education, an annual Excelencia in Education publication in which the 2014 finalists were announced. “Ultimately, we strive to inspire and support replicating and bringing to scale evidence-based practices that serve Latino students and thus serve the country.”
BUSCA was also named a finalist by Excelencia in Education in 2011.
Started in 1993, BUSCA is an innovative program that offers the region’s Spanish-speaking community the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree. Students begin the program with an intensive 12-credit course in English and then transition to classes conducted completely in English. Students study full time for five semesters, attending class in the evening, allowing them to work during the day. To offer students with the best possible chance of success, the program provides bilingual tutors, and motivational, academic, and financial aid counselors.
Currently, 160 students are enrolled in BUSCA, ranging from recent high school graduates to grandparents. Nearly 75 percent of the students who graduated last year enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs.
“For more than 20 years, La Salle’s BUSCA program has made it possible for Spanish-dominant people to pursue their dreams of achieving a higher education,” said Joanne Woods, Director of the BUSCA program. “We appreciate our institution’s extraordinary commitment to working with Hispanic students and the dedication of our instructors who provide the best possible educational experience for our students.”
Examples of Excelencia is the only national initiative to systematically identify and promote evidence-based programs and departments effectively boosting Latino enrollment, performance and graduation. It is presented in collaboration with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). The 2014 sponsors are ACT, Univision, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, DeVry University, and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2014, Excelencia in Education is a Washington, D.C.-based national non-profit organization whose mission is to accelerate Latino student success in higher education.
La Salle University freshmen Jameel Kemp and Aliyah Stephens will compete in the championship round of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in San Francisco Oct. 7-10. Both are nursing majors. They were selected at the Eastern regional competition in Philadelphia to advance to the national challenge.
Their “invention” is a jacket with a cloth solar panel that collects solar rays, converts them to electricity, and then recharges a smartphone.
“I was speechless,” said Stephens, 18, of their regional win. “We were up against so much competition that it was hard to tell who the judges liked more. I knew we were a good team, and we tried to not to stress ourselves out. We just had fun presenting. So, hearing our names was an amazing feeling. I am so grateful that we were given this opportunity.”
“Not to be arrogant, but I already knew we were going to make it,” said Kemp, 19. “We have a great idea, and we are able to make others believe that.”
He explained that the jacket is charged by the sun through the cloth patch, then the energy is transferred into a battery pack in the inside pocket, which contains a USB socket where users can plug in their smartphones. While the pair is currently focused on the competition, Kemp said they hope to eventually start a business based on their idea.
Kemp and Stephens came up with the jacket concept for a senior project they worked on together at the World Communications Charter School in Philadelphia. Soon the pair worked their way up to competing on the national level, after entering and winning school-wide, citywide, and regional competitions.
Kemp conceived of the recharging jacket because he wanted something that could be worn every day that served a function beyond regular clothing. That’s when he decided to combine purposeful clothing with recharging smartphones. When Stephens joined him in the project, she suggested making the jacket eco-friendly.
“That was a better look for the competition and better for society,” she said. “We were challenged to enter the school-wide competition by our amazing teacher, Mr. Andrew Wakelee. When we won first place (at the city competition),we knew this was something we wanted to continue to do.”
While there are other clothing items that can charge batteries, Kemp said their jacket is more fashionable and geared toward an urban market. He said he and Stephens envision a business that puts solar chargers on blazers, business suits, and trench coats.
Stephens and Kemp met while students at Girard College, a private boarding school in North Philadelphia for students who live in low-income, single-parent households. “We both grew up there together,” Stephens said. Later, the pair transferred to the World Communications Charter School.
They also decided on the same major.
“I became interested in nursing because I wanted a career to pursue my passion, which is working with children and pregnant women,” Stephens said. “Also, my mother is in school to become a nurse and she kind of influenced me. I would like to become a neonatal nurse and an adjunct nursing professor.”
Kemp attended a summer mentorship program at the University of Pennsylvania in 2010 that presented the basics about nursing. “It really made me want to learn more. While at the program, I was able to visit many hospitals and get real-life experiences that many nurses do in their everyday duties. I would like to become a pediatric or emergency nurse,” he said.
Each received a full scholarship to La Salle.
“I applied to La Salle because I wanted to be close to home and still be around my family,” said Stephens, who is from Philadelphia’s Germantown section. “When I heard about La Salle’s great credentials, I knew this was the place for me.”
Kemp, who also lives near the University, said, “I loved the fact that La Salle had such a small population, so I am able to have opportunities to interact one-on-one with the professors.”
La Salle University was established in 1863 through the legacy of St. John Baptist de La Salle and the Christian Brothers teaching order, which St. La Salle founded in 1680. La Salle is an educational community shaped by traditional Catholic and Lasallian values. Money magazine has named La Salle University a “Value All-Star,” ranking it the eighth best college nationwide for adding the most value for a college education in its recent college rankings.