Back in 2018, North Carolina joined the list of states offering various higher education Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) to students, with the U.S. Department of Education naming six state-wide campuses “Emerging HSIs.” Out of the six identified, during the 2019-2020 academic year, Sampson Community College (SCC) became the first higher education institution in the state to receive the full title of HSI— serving a student body with over 25% Latinx students.
To be considered an “Emerging HSI,” an accredited, degree-granting, higher education public or private nonprofit institution must be able to identify 15% – 25% of its student population as Latinx. To receive the full title of HSI, the institution must serve a population of 25% or more full-time Latinx students. Accredited HSIs are certified by the Department of Education based on the reports sent to the state every year.
Currently, SCC yields a 31% Hispanic/Latinx population enrolled in its curriculum courses, 23% in the Career & College Promise (CCP) program, and a massive 64% enrolled in Sampson Early College High School (SECHS).
Beginning in 1992, the U.S. Department of Education, with assistance from the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), partnered together to create a program for higher education institutions that specifically serve the Hispanic population. The goal was to help increase the economic, academic, and social success of the United States’ largest ethnic minority group.
Efforts began in 2002 at SCC to better serve the growing, local Hispanic population in Sampson County. Bilingual staff and faculty were hired at the College as well as individuals with Latinx heritages to help steer the institution in a positive, inclusive direction. At the time, the Hispanic community was expected to increase exponentially in the next few decades. This proactive mindset truly paid off once the 2020 census information was released– the Hispanic/Latinx population in Sampson County had increased from 2,091 in 2010 to 10,477 in 2020.
Dr. Marvin Rondon, Dean of Student Services at SCC, was one of the bilingual full-time faculty members hired in 2002. A native of Puerto Rico, Rondon received an Associates in Computer Science from the University of Puerto Rico before moving to NC in 1999 at the age of thirty-two. Working to complete both his master’s and doctorate degrees in the U.S., Rondon started his journey at SCC as a part-time Spanish and Computer Science instructor before being hired full-time in Bilingual Services and as a translator for the College. Because of his rich heritage, one of Rondon’s personal goals has been to specifically serve the Hispanic community in NC— a goal he’s been able to fulfill at SCC for over twenty years now.
“When I first arrived at this institution, it was important for me to let [Hispanic] people know that it is possible to learn a trade, earn a degree, start a career,” Dr. Rondon explained. “It’s possible – just come to college. Everything you need is here within the community you live in.”
One of Rondon’s responsibilities as the Dean of Student Services is to predict college enrollment based on current trends in the community and local high schools in the region. When asked about the future of SCC’s Latinx population, Rondon remarked that the College is currently calculated to be a full HSI for years to come, continuing to serve a student population with over 25% Latinx members.
Using recent statistical data, Dr. Rondon observed, “[SCC] is expected to be an HSI for at least the next ten years. Based on current numbers in our regional high schools, we are expecting to graduate more Hispanic students in Sampson County than any other ethnic group.”
In a quote, Dr. Bill Starling, President of SCC, reflected on the College’s longtime commitment and efforts to support the growing Latinx population in Sampson County and abroad. Through offering numerous educational, occupational, and financial opportunities to students and the community, such as SCC Foundation scholarships, the Juntos program, and English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, SCC strives to make a higher education accessible, affordable, and obtainable to all individuals in everything they do.
He elaborated, “Each year we celebrate the success of so many of our graduating Hispanic students who have been accepted by senior institutions to complete a bachelors as well as those who are supporting our local businesses and industry beginning their careers in Sampson County. We are proud of the opportunities that SCC provides so many students who are first-generation college students or adult learners.”
SCC’s ESL courses, offered through the Workforce Development & Continuing Education (WD&CE) department, are designed to help adults ages 18+ whose native language is not English. Students will gain skills in listening, speaking, reading, writing, and comprehension in addition to learning how to seek help in crisis or emergency situations, how to deal with U.S. currency, how to prepare for employment, and how to get assistance in becoming U.S. citizens. Students can choose to take the class on campus, or even have an SCC instructor come out to a local organization upon request. After completion, ESL students will have a sound knowledge of the language skills necessary to function effectively in an English-speaking environment.
Sampson CC is dedicated to ensuring that numerous educational, occupational, and financial opportunities are made attainable to all students, in and outside of Sampson County. The College is proud to be considered North Carolina’s first-ever Hispanic-Serving Institution and looks forward to continuing to serve and offer various opportunities to the growing Latinx population in all they do.
About Sampson Community College
Sampson Community College is a member of the North Carolina Community College System, located in Clinton, NC in Sampson County. The college offers many programs to include two-year degrees, college transfer, continuing education and workforce development options, and early college education.