Latino Education Institute

  • About the Latino Education Institute

    The Latino Education Institute of Worcester State University was founded in 2000 by a partnership of community leaders to provide outcomes-based development programs in education, literacy, leadership, civic engagement, and health.

  • Early History
    Now celebrating 15 years of service to Latino families and their children, the Latino Education Institute was created in response to an action plan developed by the Worcester Working Coalition for Latino Students (WWCLS) in 1999. The coalition, a grassroots group representing community and elected leaders, concerned parents, and educators, published a call to action outlining strategies to improve educational outcomes for Latino students.

    The coalition was formed as part of the Massachusetts Education Initiative for Latino Students 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 University assumed a leadership role for WWCLS activities among the colleges and universities in the area.

    The creation of a university-based institute dedicated to illuminating the status of education for Latino students and taking action to improve education outcomes was a core recommended strategy. Through an agreement with Worcester State University in 2000, the Latino Education Institute was founded with a mission to improve the educational achievement of Latino students at the K-16 levels. WSU provided in-kind space and appointed select faculty to work on the project to establish LEI.

    The years since have been full of growth and change, but our mission is still the same, and our commitment to the local community has never wavered. Fidelity to our mission includes not only what we seek to accomplish, but also how we work toward this goal.

    The WWCLS broad coalition model is still true today as we craft solutions with colleges, schools, businesses, and families as active partners. In our early years, we worked on a continuum of fronts to positively impact educational outcomes for Latino students.

    We held 5 conferences prior to 2006 that explored the impact of policy (MCAS and No Child Left Behind, for example) on Latino achievement. We brought forth research on student achievement and developed innovative, promising practices for family and student engagement through several flagship programs.

    We increased awareness across the community about the issues impacting Latino student achievement and engaged the Worcester Latino community through a comprehensive media campaign and weekly TV show. With support from the Kellogg Foundation, LEI worked with other communities (Leominster, Fitchburg, and Holyoke) to raise student achievement and strengthen the school-to-college-to-career pipeline for Latinos.

    In 2008, the state Legislature ceased direct funding to institutes housed in public higher education institutions. LEI shifted from a grassroots, nonprofit model with a fiscal partnership with Worcester State University to becoming a hybrid organization with one foot grounded in the community and the other as a full center at WSU.

    Our board became a community advisory board designed to provide community leadership and accountability to LEI; governance and administration of LEI became part of WSU. While this was a very challenging time for everyone involved in LEI, the shift was critical to LEI’s continued sustainability.

    New Leadership

    In 2008, Mary Jo Marión took the helm of LEI, and she continues to guide the organization today. With a renewed sense of purpose, LEI worked to sustain and grow positive relationships in the community with Latino families and students in Worcester and across the multiple departments of WSU.

    Innovation continued with the development of several promising programs such as Teaching Corps. Providing leadership in advocacy and policy impact also has continued through the Mayor’s Commission on Latino Educational Excellence and participation in multiple community collaborations and task forces.

    With this continued growth, our Board of Advisors also has grown and stretched. A strategic planning process was completed in 2013. The board and LEI leadership and staff agreed that it was time to reflect on the past 12 years, consider current challenges and assets, and strategically plan for the future. Our strategic plan documents that effort and reports our newly developed goals and objectives for the coming 3 to 5 years.

     Program Outcomes

    Housed on the WSU campus, LEI is an academic center that serves in a leadership role in Worcester, and helps to improve educational outcomes, advocacy, and research on behalf of Latino students and their families. Our most recent accomplishments include:

    • Leading a citywide initiative to improve educational outcomes by co-chairing the Mayoral Commission for Latino Educational Excellence
    • Strengthening English-as-a-Second-Language programming by educating 680 adults through the Club E program
    • Providing college-access assistance to more than 600 high-school students and families through participation in our Latino Family College Fair and year-round programming, of which 85% of high-school students served in this program went on to enroll in postsecondary education
    • Supporting 100 adolescent girls with year-round programs, helping them make healthy life choices and prepare for college
    • Employing 40 college students with paid internships in classrooms throughout the Worcester Public Schools


    LEI's continued success led to a new opportunity in 2014 to lead replication of our best practices with Springfield Technical Community College and The Puerto Rican Cultural Center. The long-term goal is to create model programs that improve education and career opportunities for Latino youth and their families in Springfield, Mass. This collaboration will focus on piloting 3 successful educational initiatives in the next 12 to 24 months.

    Research Project

    LEI was selected by the L.G. Balfour Foundation and The Boston Foundation to lead a statewide research initiative Pathways to Higher Education: Opportunities and Outcomes for Latino Young Men in Five Massachusetts Communities. The goal is to establish an understanding of the educational experiences of Latino young men leading up to and during postsecondary education. Project outcomes will establish an evidence base for future college access programming.

    Worcester State University Initiatives
    College Students as Support Staff
    We develop and train WSU students through training and work-based learning opportunities. Students build their resume, gain experience, create valuable connections, and have a reference for their next job search.

    Campus Tours
    We have been working closely with the WSU Undergraduate Admissions Office to welcome Latino students on campus. We also support the Admissions Fall Open Houses with workshops in Spanish.

    100 Males to College, Worcester
    We assist Worcester State University in its partnership with Worcester Public Schools and Quinsigamond Community College to bring mentoring, free college classes, college readiness, and career exploration to 100 junior and senior male students from area high schools.
    Board of Advisors

    The mission of the LEI Board of Advisors is to provide advice to the executive director and Worcester State University’s president and provost/vice president for academic affairs on:

    • strategic direction
    • technical expertise
    • support for programs, initiatives, and future fundraising activities

    Current Co-Chairs

    Miguel A. Lopez
    Sergeant, Worcester Police Department

    Gladys Rodriguez-Parker
    Constituent Services Director, Congressman James P. McGovern's Office

    Alex Zequiera
    Headmaster, St. John's High School

    Current Members

    Co-Chair, Mr. Miguel A. Lopez
    2009-2016, Sergeant, Worcester Police Department

    Co-chair, Ms. Gladys Rodriguez Parker
    2000-2006 * 2009-2016, Constituent Services Director

    Congressman James P. McGovern’s Office

    Co-chair, Mr. Alex Zequeira
    2012-2016, Headmaster, St. John’s High School

    Mr. Barry Maloney
    2012-2016, President, Worcester State University

    Mr. Eric D. Batista
    2016, Chief of Operations and Project Management Office of the City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr.

    Mrs. Pamela Boisvert
    2002-2016, CEO, Massachusetts Education & Career Opportunities, Inc.

    Dr. Ramon Borges-Mendez
    2012-2016, Associate Professor, Community Development & Planning, Clark University

    Ms. Nurys Camargo
    2016, Founder, Chica Project, Regional Director, External Affairs, AT&T Services Inc.

    Dr. Gail Carberry
    2012-2016, President, Quinsigamond Community College

    Dr. Rosa Carrasquillo
    2004-2007 * 2009-2016, Assistant Professor, Caribbean/Latin American History, College of the Holy Cross

    Dr. Thomas Conroy
    2014-2016, Assistant Professor, Chairperson, Urban Studies, Worcester State University

    Senator Harriette Chandler*

    Mr. Kirshner Donis
    2005-2016, Associate Director, International and ALANA Admissions, Worcester State University

    Dr. Guillermina Elissondo
    2012-2016, Associate Professor, World Languages, Worcester State University

    Mr. Juan Gomez
    2009-2016, Executive Director, Centro Las Americas

    Mr. Walter Jovel
    2016, MSPCC Counselor / Assistant Coordinator, Boys & Girls Club of Worcester / HOPE Coalition

    Dr. Roberta Kyle
    2013-2016, Associate Dean for Graduate and Continuing Education, Worcester State University

    Ms. Esther L. Levine
    2016, Lecturer, Class Dean, with special responsibilities for ALANA and international students, International Scholar and Student Advisor, College of the Holy Cross

    Congressman James P. McGovern*

    Mr. John Monfredo
    2002-2016, Worcester School Committee Member

    State Senator Michael Moore*

    Honorable Timothy Murray
    2014-2016, President and CEO, Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce

    Mr. Leopoldo Negrón-Cruz
    2005-2016, Coordinator HIV Counseling & Test. Program, Great Brook Valley Health Center

    Dr. Sarai Rivera
    2009-2016, City Councilor, Worcester Fourth District

    Mr. Marco Rodrigues
    2016, Chief Academic Officer, Worcester Public Schools

    Dr. Bertha Elena Rojas
    2014-2016, Manager of English Language Learners and Supplemental Support Services, Worcester Public Schools

    Mr. Mario Silva-Rosa
    2004-2016, Director of Admissions, Assumption College

    Mrs. Kathleen Toomey
    2002-2016, Worcester City Councilor

    Ms. Yachira Torres
    2016, Lead Teacher & Community Service Coordinator, Nativity School of Worcester

    Dr. Lois Wims
    2016, Provost, Worcester State University

    * Honorary Members


    LEI relies on the generous support of funders and sponsors to realize our mission to close the achievement gap. We appreciate the support of our generous funders whose contributions enable us to offer a variety of programs.

    Current Benefactors

    • Bank of America’s Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation and Boston Foundation – Latino Male Research
    • Greater Worcester Community Foundation – ENLACE, ESL/Family Literacy, and Club E
    • Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation – Springfield Field Office
    • Mass Mutual Foundation – Springfield Field Office
    • People’s United Bank – LIDER
    • Ruth H. and Warren A. Ellsworth Foundation – ENLACE
    • United Way of Central Massachusetts, Community Impact – Club E and ISLA
    • United Way of Central Massachusetts Women's Initiative – LASOS
    • Webster Five Foundation – ENLACE
    • Worcester Public Schools – ELL Summer Camp and Support Services for ELL Students
    • Worcester State University – Strategic Planning and Teaching Corp
    • Worcester Youth Center – One Circle