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Howard Community College’s Ambiciones Selected as a 2021 Example of Excelencia

COLUMBIA, MD – Excelencia in Education, the nation’s premier authority on efforts accelerating Latino student success in higher education, announced today that the Ambiciones program at Howard Community College was selected as the 2021 Examples of Excelencia for the Associate category. It is one of four evidence-based programs – and the only community college program – in the country recognized by the organization during its annual Celebración de Excelencia event in Washington, D.C. today.

“We are proud to be selected as the 2021 Examples of Excelencia and to be recognized for our commitment to building community among our Hispanic and Latino students. We are dedicated to providing Ambiciones students and their families with pathways to success,” said Lynn Coleman, interim president of Howard Community College.

Ambiciones started in 2015 after a review of student data indicated that Hispanic and Latino students were not succeeding at the same level as their peers while enrolled, not graduating at the rate of their peers, and not persisting at the same rate.

“Many of our students are first-generation,” said Sandy Cos, associate director of Ambiciones. “Many have parents who didn’t attend college here in the US, or who are only familiar with the system in their home country. Ambiciones lends support to families who are navigating an unfamiliar process and helps students to find their own community of peers. Our students become like family, and we work to provide them with the skills they will need to succeed at HCC and beyond.”

During the first year of the program, 25 students were placed with an advisor who helped connect them to support resources at HCC. The program has now evolved to support students before they have even enrolled, educating them through their communities about the importance of college, and about financial aid opportunities that can help cover the cost of tuition and other expenses.

Ambiciones has three core goals with corresponding student outcomes: assisting students with maintaining good academic standing; increasing retention rates of first-year participants; and increasing student participant transfer/graduation rates. As a result, fiscal year 2020 fall-to-fall retention rate for first year/full-time participants was 79 percent compared to 58 percent for non-program participants.

Examples of Excelencia is the only national effort to identify, aggregate and promote evidence-based practices improving Latino student success in higher education. As higher education institutions continue to pivot during these unprecedented times, these programs are a powerful example of what can work for Latino students while serving all.

Ambiciones and the other three standout programs were identified as models of culturally responsive, asset-based efforts with evidence of effectiveness in recruiting, retaining, graduating, and preparing Latino students for success in the workforce that others can learn from to more intentionally serve their students.

“These evidence-based practices prove that transformation in higher education with an explicit focus on the students we serve is possible,” said Deborah Santiago, co-founder and CEO, Excelencia in Education. “We need to invest in what works if we are committed to student success.”

Sarita Brown, co-founder and president, Excelencia in Education, added, “Excelencia brings positive attention to people and programs making a positive impact for our Latino students. Examples of Excelencia inspires leaders to implement innovations that can serve all students.”

Program descriptions of the other three examples and this year’s finalists are in a compendium that can be viewed and downloaded for free here: 2021 What Works for Latino Students in Higher Education.

To learn more about Ambiciones at HCC, visit

Topics: Accolades
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