The Rapidian

Supporting Our Leaders: preparing students for the future

The Supporting Our Leaders, SOL, program helps students prepare for their education and gives them opportunities to explore life after high school.
Mario Alfaro Youth Advocate at The Hispanic Center

Mario Alfaro Youth Advocate at The Hispanic Center /Salma Rodriguez

Learn more about Supporting Our Leaders (SOL)

To learn more information about SOL, please contact:

Mario Alfaro
Youth Advocate & Gang Specialist
(616) 246-0561
[email protected]

Rachel Lopez
Director of Youth & Parent Services
(616) 246-0562
[email protected]

Ricardo Martinez
Youth Advocate & School Liaison
(616) 246-0560
[email protected]

Dr.Cid from 616 Dental Studio

Dr.Cid from 616 Dental Studio /Mario Alfaro

SOL program intern at the Cook Library Center

SOL program intern at the Cook Library Center /Mario Alfaro

The Hispanic Center of Western Michigan has been involved with the community for many years and are supporting our youth through the Supporting our Leaders, SOL, program. The program is for middle school, high school and college students. The program was founded in 2008 to reach out to the youth in the community. SOL provides academic services, career exploration, job shadowing, internships, paid work experiences, budgeting training and support services. SOL also prepares high school students for college by giving them experience with different career options.

"It provides them with a real job experience to find out if they like working in that field or if it's not what their interests are," says Sue Garza from the Cook Library Center. The Hispanic Center partners with different companies and different organizations to give their students multiple career options such as dentistry, journalism, media management, child care and much more.

"I love my job because it's easy and simple. I get to meet a lot of professionals that give me the inside experience of being in the real work world," says by Peter Rodriguez an intern at Grand Valley State University. SOL is a learning process for the students as it teaches them to be responsible and to work hard in whatever job they have.

This year, SOL has partnered with 616 Dental Studio, Grandville Avenue Art and Humanities, Compernew, Professional Media Management and much more to bring real world experience to young people. Program Director of the Cook Arts Center, Steffanie Rosalez, says the experience "has been really good for the students as far as personal growth and understanding a lot about taking responsibility in things they need in the future."

SOL not only helps them while they are enrolled but also after they complete the program. Rosario Parada an intern at the Hispanic Center was a student of SOL when she was in high school.

"I got involved a lot with the Hispanic Center after I joined the program and after college they asked me if I wanted to work for them,"says Parada. "I just wanted to work here because it gives me a chance to give back to my community. I think it's very important to show students who are in the program that they can come back to work here or to go to college. I think that's the biggest part."

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