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Luzerne County university launches psychology scholars program for Hispanic students

Sarah Hofius Hall

Linda Hidalgo says parts of Hispanic background sometimes made it uncomfortable to talk about mental health. The Misericordia University junior, whose parents are from Chile, wants to add to the conversation.

“For me, personally, I just... want to be able to help people,” Hidalgo said. "And I feel like others also want to be able to do that and just be able to connect with others, other Hispanics that can't seem to open up to their family members.”

A new Misericordia program for Hispanic students interested in psychology will offer support in several ways.

The Luzerne County school will pilot the Hispanic Student Psychology Scholars Program in the fall. Open to current high school seniors in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, the program will provide a $3,000 annual scholarship, peer mentors and the opportunity to live in a residence hall with special programs.

Alicia Nordstrom, professor of psychology and chair of the department, has conducted research for over a decade on interventions for stereotypes and prejudice and discrimination.

She wants to address Hispanic underrepresentation in college and help students overcome obstacles by offering additional support.

“We want you in psychology, because it's really about compassion, and just that like motivation to want to learn about human behavior, and then bringing that knowledge out to other people in the community," Nordstrom said.

Misericordia University will launch a Hispanic Student Psychology Honors Program this fall.
Sarah Hofius Hall
Misericordia University will launch a Hispanic Student Psychology Honors Program this fall.

The program will include a bilingual open house and offer transportation to families.

Psychology student Samantha Romero said Hispanic students, sometimes the first in their families to navigate higher education in the United States, often face obstacles. She knows people who have dropped out of college after feeling isolated.

“I think the bilingual open house is very beneficial for that because then you can make you feel like your parents are in on the experience with you and makes you feel like kind of warm, where it's like your parents are there for that your big moment,” Romero said.

Growing up, Leslie Huertero-Sosa felt like she couldn’t talk to her family about how she was feeling. After she took a psychology class, she learned that depression can happen to anyone.

She now wants to work with children.

“I want to help people out ... just figure out why they're feeling sad for no reason, or for all the reasons, but they don't know how to talk to people about it,” Huertero-Sosa said.

The application review period started last week. More information is available below.

Sarah Hofius Hall worked at The Times-Tribune in Scranton since 2006. For nearly all of that time, Hall covered education, visiting the region's classrooms and reporting on issues important to students, teachers, families and taxpayers.

You can email Sarah at sarahhall@wvia.org