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Local college opportunites for immigrants widen

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Published on: Thursday, February 07, 2013

By Tazeen Ahmad

WHEATON - The Ana G. Mendez University, in Wheaton, offering degree programs geared for Spanish-speaking adults, has almost doubled its enrollment during the past year from 125 students last January to 230 students presently enrolled.

Syndia Nazario, campus director, says the non-profit institution has received a lot of support from the community since it opened its doors on January 23, 2012.  She says the programs at the Capital Area branch, one of four U.S. branches of the Puerto Rico-based university system, are helping remove the language barrier for Latino immigrants who want to pursue higher education but are not proficient in English.

This university provides an opportunity for professionals that have completed a degree at an accredited school in their country to have their credentials evaluated, and validated so they don’t have to start all over again once they come to America.  

Since the programs are 50 percent in Spanish and 50 percent in English it gives people an opportunity to go into an academic system where they can continue developing their first language, which in most cases is Spanish while also improving their English skills.

For Berta Lucia Romero, 36, it was a perfect scenario.  Romero moved to Fairfax, Va., five years ago from Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.  She had always planned on pursuing a master’s degree but, raising two kids and working full time, finding a program that would work with her schedule was not easy.  When Romero heard about the Ana G. Mendez program, through some friends, with its flexible timings and courses that would be offered in both Spanish and English she couldn’t believe her luck.  

“When I came here the first time I felt the same way as I did when I was in my country,” Romero said, “When I am here, I am happy.” Romero, takes classes one day a week, and plans to finish her master’s degree by May 2014; she will be among the first batch of graduates of the Wheaton campus.

Manuel Rodriguez, 48, discovered the Ana G. Mendez University after watching a television commercial about the school on Telmundo.  The idea of being able to pursue his studies in Spanish and improve his command of the English language at the same time appealed to him.  Like most students at the school Rodriguez works full time, in addition he takes classes two days a week.  He has an associate’s degree from Strayer University but likes the more personal touch that is offered by this much smaller campus.  

“To me the main difference is that I have access to the professors a lot easier,” Rodriguez said.  “Due to the bilingual system and the support I will be able to graduate much more quickly.”  Rodriguez is currently working towards a bachelor’s in business administration and hopes to go on to do a master’s in finance as well.

 “This is dream come true.  It has opened a new life for us” says Juana Gonzales as she talks about the dual-language university where she is currently enrolled.  Gonzales, 34, originally from Peru, works as a server at the Manor Country Club, and dreams of becoming a nurse one day. Before the university opened, Gonzales said, she would have had to spend at least two to three years studying English before she could start working on her nursing degree, now she can do both at the same time.  

 Gonzales says that when her older brother came to America in 2000 he was not so lucky.

 “My older brother went to law school in Peru but when he came here he couldn’t speak English.  So he went to Montgomery College to take courses in English but it was expensive and he had to support his family and work so he was unable to continue to study.  He now works as a bartender.”   Gonzales said this kind of thing happens to many people.  

For many people the cost of the courses at Ana G. Mendez University is another feature that makes it appealing and accessible; undergraduate courses cost $360 and graduate courses cost $560 and the cost does not vary if students live out-of-state.  Requirements to register include that students be at least 23-years-old, have prior post-secondary education and a minimum of three years of work experience.

The university offers ongoing workshops and seminars on health, immigration and job placement.  Some upcoming events include a tax preparation counseling workshop, a job placement seminar, a low-cost health services information session and a job fair.

Reader Comments - 1 Total

captcha 9e8bda50258f4160a3917142b189d173

Posted By: Johanna Lugo On: 2/9/2013

Title: Recruitment

If you wish to obtain more information about the Ana G. Mendez, and our academic programs, please call us at 1-301-949-2224 or visit our website at
We look forward to hearing from you.


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