TWIN FALLS, Idaho — At 30 years old, Daisy Ponce is a wife and a mother of two. Now, she's also a first-generation Hispanic student at the College of Southern Idaho.
Ponce will soon be finishing her first semester in her path to getting a degree in criminal justice. Ponce always wanted to receive a higher-level education and the birth of her now 5-year-old son inspired her to enroll at CSI.
Her son was born with a rare condition and the cost of health insurance and medical bills weigh heavily on her family.
“If you can’t afford it, you’re trying to better yourself and get a better paying job. I’m here to do that and get that help for him,” Ponce said. “I don’t want anyone to feel like, just because they have something going on they can’t better themselves. By all means, that’s what gives you the extra push to do that.”
At first, Ponce said she felt uncomfortable being inside the classroom. She questioned if she belonged and wondered if anyone at CSI would be willing to help her.
To her surprise, Ponce said she found a friendly environment full of resources at Idaho’s first Hispanic Serving Institute (HSI). She’s received assistance through the library, tutoring center, professors and fellow peers.
“It’s been hard, but I’m looking ahead. I’m not looking back, I’m not making excuses,” Ponce said. “I’m here to do it.”
The College of Southern Idaho was recognized as a HSI about six months ago.
Dean of Institutional Effectiveness and Communication Chris Bragg said colleges grow into becoming an HSI based on demographic changes and intentional efforts institutions make to meet the needs of all their students.
With the growth of the Hispanic population in South Central Idaho and CSI’s growth in enrollment, he said CSI becoming an HSI was not a surprise. Instead, it led to deeper conversations about the role this status plays within the institution.
“It’s a recognition that we have a significant portion of our population that identifies, self identifies, as Hispanic and wanting to make sure that we were doing everything we could to make sure that we were serving that population, as well as our entire student population,” Bragg said.
As an HSI, the College of Southern Idaho is eligible for Title Five Hispanic Serving Institution grants. Moving forward into 2022, CSI will apply for available grant funds.
“It’s a vehicle to try to get us to be able to better serve our students,” Bragg said.
Over 25% of students at CSI identify as Hispanic, and Ponce said she feels pride in being a part of the Hispanic community.
“Experiencing some issues that others might not and being here in college, you’re setting an example to everyone,” Ponce said. “You can either be the voice or an advocate for them. You can do it.”