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Education

CSI celebrates Hispanic-Serving Institution status

A banner that says "Welcome To CSI" is draped between two light posts at the entrance to the College of Southern Idaho's Twin Falls campus.
Rachel Cohen
/
Boise State Public Radio
A banner welcomes people to CSI's Twin Falls campus before school starts.

The College of Southern Idaho in the Magic Valley is celebrating its new status this week as Idaho’s first Hispanic-Serving Institution.

CSI achieved this designation from the U.S. Department of Education earlier this year. It means at least a quarter of the students are Hispanic. And it’s mainly the result of demographic changes.

The Hispanic or Latino population in Twin Falls has grown by 44% in the last decade. According to the 2020 U.S. Census results, the Hispanic or Latino population in Idaho grew by 36.1% since 2010, while Idaho as a whole grew by 17.3%.

“Unlike other minority-serving institutions, Hispanic-Serving Institutions are something that institutions grow into," said Chris Bragg, the Dean of Institutional Effectiveness and Communication at CSI. “In other words, Historically Black Colleges are founded as Black colleges.”

That difference, Bragg said during a community forum at the Twin Falls campus Wednesday night, means CSI still has work to do to better include and serve its Hispanic students. It’s part of what the college has been exploring this week.

"This is a recognition that we have a lot of work to do, that our communities are changing and that we need to get on the right path," Bragg said.

During Wednesday’s discussion with local public officials, business leaders and community members, panelists focused on topics affecting the local Hispanic and Latino communities such as education and immigration.

Recent CSI graduate and current Boise State University student Gisselle Raddatz said she'd like to see more outreach explaining college, including the application process, to families with kids in Magic Valley high schools. As a first-generation college student, she said she cried when first stepping on CSI's campus because she was overwhelmed.

Bestaida Chavez Garcia, an attorney with Immigrant Justice Idaho, spoke about the difference bilingual educators made in her elementary-school learning.

The first school she attended in Utah, after arriving to the U.S. at age 6, did not have many Spanish-speaking teachers, and she struggled. Then, she moved to Ontario, Ore., where there were many more resources for English learners.

“As soon as I started picking up the English language around third grade, I mean, I loved school, I enjoyed it,” she said.

One area of opportunity, college leaders have said, is training more Hispanic and Latino K-12 teachers to work in local schools.

Editor's Note: Chris Bragg serves on Boise State Public Radio's Community Advisory Board.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio