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Juntos Program Move Fortifies Sustainability, Strengthens Local Communities

Juntos Summer Academy group photo of students

Juntos means ‘together’ in Spanish, and the Juntos program at NC State University empowers 8th-12th grade students. Together with their parents and mentors, they gain the skills, knowledge, and tools necessary to promote high school graduation and make college a possibility.

The Juntos Program began in 2007 under NC State Extension and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), where it established solid grounding and blossomed. Year after year, the program reached thousands of Latinx families and students, helping them navigate what may be an unfamiliar path to the higher education system, and being successful once there.

Early in 2019, the Juntos Program moved to NC State University’s Division of Academic and Student Affairs under the Pathways Programs with the support and leadership of Dr. Mike Mullen, Vice Chancellor and Dean. Juntos is now part of DASA Pathways which includes seven other programs providing support to prospective and current college students. This move includes continued partnership with NC State Extension under the leadership of Dr. Rich Bonanno, Director of NC State Extension and CALS Associate Dean. Both the university and NC State Extension will now provide financial support for the program.

“Previously, we were 100 percent grant funded,” according to Diana Urieta, Program Senior Director and co-developer, who joined Juntos in 2011. “Over the years, through the Program’s commitment – together with our partnerships with high schools, families, NC State, and community members – we have stretched to provide even more services to more students.

“NC State University is the model for the National Juntos program… We set the stage for what other universities can do.”

Diana Urieta

A program that started with a six-week high school curriculum now has four components serving 8th to 12th grade students. These components include: Family Engagement, Juntos 4-H Clubs, Success Coaching and Mentoring, and Summer Academy at NC State.  We continue to experience growth and interest in our program.”

Juntos is present in 11 states and Juntos North Carolina is the leading state, providing training and coaching to new sites. “NC State University is the model for the National Juntos program. Now, we can say, ‘Look, your University needs to engage and support programs like Juntos’. We set the stage for what other universities can do.”

Juntos members prepare for the Familias Unidas event

The convergence of becoming recognized as a lead state for Juntos National, and of experiencing financial struggles despite meeting growing demand, resulted in drawing the attention of Dr. Mullen, introduced by Urieta to Dr. Scott Reed, Vice Provost for University Outreach and Engagement from Oregon State University. Both leaders were able to discuss the layers of benefits the Juntos Program provides the community, the state, and the University.

“All these things gave Dr. Mullen the green light to speak with the Provost about creating a partnership which now supports a State-level position for the program. Juntos leadership will still work to bring in funds through donors, partners, and grants to help the program grow; however, it is no longer our primary focus to survive as a program but rather to focus on sustainability. So many families want higher education for their kids but don’t know how to make it happen. We show them the path,” Urieta said.

“What I love about Juntos – it moves people forward in local communities across our state. Being part of the Division of Academic and Student Affairs Pathways Programs means the reach and impact of the division will be even greater.”

The impact is real. The program is seeing 100 percent of high school graduation rates in Juntos seniors year after year, more than 80 percent improvement in their grades. All 100 percent of Juntos parents report it helped improve communication with their child. More than 90 percent of Juntos students report feeling like they belong in their schools and communities after participating in the program, according to Urieta.

Check out this Juntos video to get a sense of the essence of the program: