ARLINGTON, Va. (WUSA) -- "One of the things I found about Edu-Futuro to be really amazing is the fact that they actually reach out to the Latino community," said Marisela Lara, 17, junior at Washington Lee High School. She is the first in her family preparing to go to college.
Edu-Futuro is helping Lara go through the college application process. The non-profit organization was founded by Bolivian Americans in 1998. Its current mission is to mentor Latino middle and high school students to be prepared for higher education and leadership roles.
Edu-Futuro addresses the academic needs of a growing population. In 2015, an estimate of 57.1 million Latinos will be in America, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (table 4).
"The Latino community, as many immigrant communities, have unique needs and barriers-language, cultural, that come with being an immigrant," said Eneida Alcalde, Executive Director of Edu-Futuro (aka. Educación Para Nuestro Futuro).
Lara participates within Edu-Futuro's Emerging Leaders Program where she is paired with a mentor. The mentor helps her with homework, the SAT's and other college paperwork. Meanwhile, the mentorship builds Lara's confidence.
"I feel like I've grown in my leadership skills. I'm now taking on bigger roles, I started my own club at school, I'm more out going now, not shy to speak in front of people," said Lara.
Lara's first mentor was a working professional. For the second part of the Emerging Leaders Program, Lara is currently mentored by a local Latina college student.
In about 40 years, nearly one in three U.S. residents will be Hispanic, according to the estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
"As a Latina, I really envision our community to be engaged, compassionate, educated community members. Because I really believe in the United States. I'm an immigrant myself," said Alcalde.
Lara wants to study medicine, and she is preparing to become a strong college applicant.
"I'm taking all of the required classes in high school, that will help me get better knowledge on how the medicine field will be like," said Lara.
Lara said she is not only being proactive about her future, but her actions are meant to encourage her younger brother.
"I hope to inspire my brother to attend college."
NOTE: Gannett Foundation has provided a grant to Edu-Futuro.
Produced/Written by: Elizabeth Jia
WUSA 9 & WUSA9.com