About Us En español
The Latino Education Institute (LEI) at Worcester State University (WSU) is located in Worcester, Massachusetts and was founded in 2000 by a partnership of community leaders to provide outcomes-based development programs in education, literacy, leadership, civic engagement and health. Our mission is to:
(1) Improve the academic achievement and well-being of Latino students (grades K-16) and their families throughout the city of Worcester. Each year the LEI reaches over 1500 youth and their families with education and advocacy programs and hundreds more through city-wide partnerships with the Worcester Public School district as well as other community-based agencies.
(2) Community Outreach. LEI outreach provides innovative solutions to families, who are looking for alternative ways to increase their English language literacy skills, connect with other families who share similar experiences, and for those new to our country, navigate local systems and resources.
Now celebrating ten years of service to Latino families and their children, the LEI was created in response to an action plan developed by the Worcester Working Coalition for Latino Students (WWCLS) in 1999.
- The WWCLS was a community-working group that created a strategic work plan to address the educational and social needs of Latino students throughout the city of Worcester. This group was formed as part of the Massachusetts Education Initiative for Latino Students (MEILS) in response to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans launched by President Clinton in 1994.
- As a contributing partner to the coalition, Worcester State College assumed a leadership role for WWCLS activities among the colleges and universities in the area. The College provided in-kind space, appointed select faculty to work on the project, and thus the Latino Education Institute was established.
- The Worcester Working Coalition for Latino Students (WWCLS) was born in 1999 under the leadership of U.S. Representative James McGovern and the Honorable Judge Luis Perez to improve the academic achievement of Latino students. It included a community-wide representation of Latino leaders, community activists, religious representatives, students, parents, educators, organized labor, elected and appointed official, and the business sector.
- In October 1999 the first Massachusetts Summit on Latino Education was held at Worcester State College, sponsored by the WWCLS. Former Governor Paul Celluci, Commissioner of Massachusetts Department of Education, David Driscoll, the Chancellor of Higher Education Judith Gill, and representatives from the White House and U.S. Department of Education attend the event.
- In 2000, the Coalition published “A Call for Action” outlining strategies to improve educational outcomes for Latinos. One of these actions was the development of a Latino Education Institute.
- In 2000, the Latino Education Institute is born when Worcester State College offers a building to serve as the official home of the Institute and provides a half-time position.
- In 2001, the Fuller Foundation provides the first grant to the LEI to establish innovative programs for Latino students.
- In 2002, the Kellogg Foundation provided a one million dollar award to advance the development of a Latino school-college pipeline.
- In 2002, the LEI hosts a statewide conference entitled ‘A dialogue about the MCAS test: Its impact on Latino Students and Their Families.”
- In 2005, the Fourth State Wide Conference, Building Pathways to College for
Latino Students, is held.
- In 2006, the Massachusetts legislature under the leadership of Harriet Chandler instituted a line item to fund the work of the LEI as part of the general funding for Worcester State College, thus providing critical permanent operating funds for the LEI.
- In 2008, the LEI moves into a new house located at 537 Chandler Street provided by the generosity of the Worcester State College Foundation.
The annual goals of the LEI include:
(1) Providing outcomes-based development programs in education, literacy, leadership, civic engagement and health;
(2) Sharing research and policy development; and
(3) Coordinating community outreach
Housed on the campus of Worcester State University, the LEI is an academic center designed to enrich and serve both the campus community and the greater community of central Massachusetts. The LEI currently provides four core programs each year which reflect innovative models for family-school involvement, highlight the strengths of Latino families, reduce school dropout rates, improve enrollment in higher education, and promote an informed citizenry. These programs include:
(1) Club Education (Club "E") a program that promotes parental involvement in their children's education by engaging them in English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) classes enhancing English literacy and communication skills;
(2) Innovative Services for Latino Achievers (ISLA) an academic after-school program for students in grades 3-6 from the city of Worcester;
(3) Latina Achievers in Search of Success (LASOS) which engages 6th grade Latina girls and their mothers in an educational after school settings focused on self exploration, personal development, cultural enrichment, early college awareness and career exploration;
(4) Latinos Involved in Discovering Educational Resources (LIDER) an educational after-school program engaging students and their parents in activities that prepare students for and facilitate access to higher education.
In 2008-2009 each of the four core program grew between 10% and 52% and the total number of families served increased by 51% reaching approximately 800 individuals.
The LEI is led by Executive Director Mary Jo Marion, who brings over 20 years of experience in education and workforce development to the Institute. Previously, Ms. Marion was the Special Assistant and Chief Policy Advisor to the President of Mass Bay Community College; and also served as Associate Director of the Mauricio Gaston Institute for Latino Community Development. She is supported by 3 full-time employees, 25 part-time staff, and 16 volunteers.