“Esperanza” means hope in Spanish, and the opportunities that Esperanza makes possible certainly brings hope to many students and, by extension, the city. Esperanza began with its first class in 2000, a class of students working toward their associate’s degrees. The path to this first class started years before 2000; in 1996 current President of Esperanza, Reverand Luis Cortes, Jr., met with Dr. David Black in in hopes of making his dream of an “institution of redemption, grace, and hope” a reality. Esperanza College is now an official branch of Eastern University and works independently to further Eastern University’s mission of spreading faith, reason, and justice.
Reverand Luis Cortes was joined in his dream by a group of other Hispanic pastors in North Philadelphia in 1982. The group was collaborating to serve a community “suffering from poverty, unstable housing, low educational attainment, and high crime.” North Philadelphia was home to a large Spanish-speaking population, and their lack of English skills limited their possibilities.
To cater to the language needs of Esperanza’s target population, the curriculum is designed in order to teach students bilingually. By graduation, students will be learning completely in English. Esperanza’s curriculum is also designed to teach students in conjunction with Eastern University’s core curriculum, while also offering academic concentrations that are likely to provide the graduates with a career path. Esperanza offers programs in Accounting, Business Administration, Community and Human Services, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Middle Level Education, and Medical Assisting. Each degree concentration includes varied experiences in the classroom and outside of it, offering hands-on application to further prepare its students for life after education.
Esperanza is unique in other ways as well. It has been mentioned that the population it services is statistically more impoverished than other areas of the city. To make this education possible to the students the Esperanza dreamers committed to serve, “100% of students receive the Esperanza College Grant worth more than 53% of tuition”. Both day and evening classes are also available, making it much more feasible for students to work while in school.
44% of Esperanza students are first-generation college students, because of the obstacles outlined above as well as many others. Esperanza gives these students an opportunity they may not have had otherwise, and to ensure student success in this new environment, Esperanza boasts a 16:1 student-teacher ratio.
Esperanza has won awards for their quality education including the 2011 Hispanic Choice Awards’ “Education Champion of the Year” and 2013 finalist in the “Excelencia in Education.” Esperanza’s commitment to thoughtful Christian education for the Hispanic community has clearly been successful, and Eastern is proud of its accomplishments.