Hispanic-Serving Institution Status Provides Opportunities for Students


Mariela Vazquez sees the hardships her parents faced due to their lack of opportunities growing up in impoverished, and at times violent, areas of Mexico.

“Education is a privilege,” said Vazquez, an early childhood education major and Student Government Association president at Dalton State. “My parents’ experience as immigrants is what drives me to be the best version of myself. I see education as a privilege because they did not have the chance to pursue one. Everything I accomplish, I do for them.”

Vazquez believes she has even more opportunities thanks to Dalton State and its status as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), a federal designation given to colleges with at least 25% of students who identify as Hispanic.

Mayor David Pennington recently recognized the college for its status as Georgia’s first and only HSI with a proclamation in honor of National HSI Week. Vazquez and Dr. Margaret Venable, president of Dalton State, accepted the recognition on behalf of the college.

“Having an HSI status means I can receive a quality education with the programs and resources to help students succeed,” Vazquez said. “Dalton State serves all students on campus, and the college is highly regarded and respected by minority students thanks to this designation.”

The college received the designation in 2018, and now reports 31% of the student population is Hispanic.

“This is a reflection of Northwest Georgia,” said Venable. “Dalton State has always served local needs by educating our local population. We want to contribute to an educated workforce and help fill industry needs. Being an HSI makes us eligible for grants that provide us with more resources to benefit all students. We believe diversity enriches the student experience because we learn from different perspectives.”

Because of its HSI status, Dalton State received and implemented a $2.1 million federal Title V grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant is used to supplement areas targeting student success and achievement for all students enrolled at Dalton State, including tutoring, advisement and even financial hardships.

“Having the HSI status is a form of support and commitment to serving all students, including minorities,” Vazquez said. “This gives us more opportunities for scholarships, programs, community engagement and more. Students have grown to expect the high-quality education Dalton State is known for, and we have an opportunity to express and celebrate our various cultural backgrounds. We have the opportunity to learn, grow and emerge. Our diversity makes us stronger.”