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University, nonprofits and corporations unite for student success

HOLA Partnership volunteers

HOLA Partnership volunteers at Be A Leader’s October 2018 Taking Steps Toward College Success event. Photo courtesy of Karla Robles/Be A Leader Foundation

May 10, 2019

History has shown that positive things can happen when individuals unite for the greater good. The HOLA partnership — the Hispanic/Latino Organization for Leadership — follows in that tradition.

The HOLA partnership is a collaboration between Arizona State University, nonprofit Be A Leader Foundation and leaders from Hispanic Employee Resource Groups from corporations in the Phoenix metro area. The initiative combines each partners’ strengths and resources in support of education and student success.

“Taking responsibility for the success of students in our community and helping them uncover the possibilities available to them is a priority for Educational Outreach and Student Services and for ASU," said Lorenzo Chavez, assistant vice president for outreach partnerships at ASU. "Working with our longtime partner Be A Leader Foundation and bringing new corporate partners into the fold enables all of us to broaden our efforts for the benefit of Arizona’s students, families and communities.” 

The partnership was formed when leaders from the Hispanic ERGs were looking for an education-focused community service opportunity. Through connections to ASU and Be A Leader, who have partnered for the past 10 years, they worked together to create a FAFSA application event that would take place during Be A Leader’s annual Taking Steps Toward College Success event in fall 2018.

The free event serves Arizona high school students and families, helping them navigate the path to college. The day includes a college-going resource fair with more than 50 organizations including nonprofits, in-state universities, military academies and scholarship organizations.

Karla Robles, chief strategy officer for Be A Leader Foundation, said that the majority of the students they serve haven’t been exposed to the college application process, and those in the partnership are able to help guide them and make the experience less cumbersome.

In preparation for the event and service opportunity, Chavez worked with Robles to train more than 60 individuals from the ERGs on how to assist with FAFSA completion. The volunteers represented organizations including Wells Fargo, MUFG Union Bank, Vanguard, Discover, American Express, Bank of America, the city of Phoenix, SRP, APS and Arizona Federal Credit Union.

Ivan Calderon is vice president of third-party management at MUFG Union Bank and leader of the company’s Hispanic ERG. He said the event was a perfect opportunity for all ERGs to promote and support higher education efforts in Arizona.

“We were inspired to support Be A Leader’s ‘Taking Steps Towards College Success’ after learning about the impact that just completing a FAFSA application has on the likelihood of someone attending college. All the folks involved in this initiative were surprised to learn how much of an effect we could have if we supported students and families in that process,” Calderon said. 

He believes collaborations like the HOLA partnership are important not only for philanthropic reasons, but for economic ones as well. “Given the advances in technology, we need to have an educated and prepared labor force to meet future challenges and to keep Arizona competitive in the global economy.”

Adriana Delgado, who leads Wells Fargo’s Hispanic Employee Resource Group, echoed Calderon’s comments. 

“Published research shows that higher education is directly correlated with economic growth and stability,” Delgado said. “Directly applying that notion to the Taking Steps Towards College Success event, one can argue that the students we helped during this event will one day be our colleagues, our customers, our government leaders.”

Chavez said the partnership plans to continue working together and grow their participation for other FAFSA-focused events this fall.