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Family Nights at Des Moines Area Community College, Urban Campus: At a glance

Des Moines is becoming more diverse
University Business, September 2016
Asian and Pacific Islander Family Night at Des Moines Area Community College.
Asian and Pacific Islander Family Night at Des Moines Area Community College.

What: Events aimed at creating a college-going culture in local ethnic communities, where attendees can get direction on career choice, applying to college, and paying for college.

Community leaders and current Des Moines Area Community College students are often involved in planning and sharing stories. At the end of the evening, a scholarship drawing is held.

Why: Des Moines is becoming more diverse, with a growing population of Latinos from Central America; Asians from Burma, Nepal and Bhutan; and Africans. 

Latino Family Night (2014 and 2015)

  • 75+ attendees, with students signing up to attend the community college and apply for financial aid on the spot
  • 10.9%—Latino student population at the college after the first year of family night (up from 9.2%)
  • 25%—Latino students enrolled in Des Moines Public Schools (2015-16)
  • 3rd annual event to be held this fall

Asian and Pacific Islander Family Night (2015 and 2016)

  • 75+ attendees each year, with students enrolling at the event
  • 7.4%—Asian and Pacific Islander population at the community college in fall 2015 (up from 6.6% the previous year) 
  • 7.8%—Asian and Pacific Islander students enrolled in Des Moines Public Schools (2015-16)

African Family Night (2016)

  • 150+ attendees
  • 18%—African-American population (plus recent arrivals from Africa) at the community college in fall 2015 
  • 18.3%—African-American students enrolled in Des Moines Public Schools (2015-16)

10 tips for planning a family night aimed at attracting diverse students

Laura L. Douglas, provost of Des Moines Area Community College, Urban Campus, offers this advice for other institutions looking to attract students via family nights aimed at Latino, Asian or other groups:

  1. Begin planning early, as marketing and event promotion must be specially crafted to your population. Des Moines Area Community College Urban Campus’ planning teams are usually made up of 25 people and we break the team into smaller teams to focus on marketing, programming and logistics.
  2. Collaborate with community organizations that are also trying to educate their communities about the benefit of higher education.
  3. Ensure that students, alumni and community members are involved in the planning to address specific needs and minimize cultural misunderstandings.
  4. Invite current students to volunteer for the event (greeting attendees, registering families, serving food, etc.) and give them a free t-shirt to wear at the event.
  5. Consider the language needs of your guests and make appropriate marketing materials and plans. Identify the languages that your staff and students speak to make it easy for guests to ask for interpreting help.
  6. Invite highly-respected community members to begin and end the program by relating their personal stories about attending college.
  7. Allocate plenty of time for a student panel. It is the most important part of the program for prospective students.
  8. Invite other organizations that you frequently work with to be a part of a resource fair, such as a community organization that gives out college scholarships.
  9. Evaluate the program and focus on how you can do a better job next time.
  10. Celebrate success and find ways to help your planning teams learn more about the communities that you are trying to reach.

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