Breaking Down Barriers

Online platform helps first-generation college students and their parents

For Voqal Fellow Luis Hernandez, innovation was sparked when he saw the unique needs of high school students who were members of the first generation in their families to apply for college.

“Students couldn’t go home and ask their parents about financial aid — their parents had never gone through that process,” said Hernandez, a software developer who works for Chicago Public Schools. “The students were on their own. They could go online or talk to a college counselor but they couldn’t talk to their parents.”

Hernandez, himself a first-generation college graduate, created an online platform called Edprende, a combination of the words “Education” and “Comprende,” Spanish for “to understand.” The platform provides videos and courses for Spanish-speaking parents on topics related to financial aid and the U.S. higher education system.

Hernandez said his goal in creating Edprende was to provide content so parents unfamiliar with FAFSA and other tools would be able to understand the application process and communicate about it with their children.

A Voqal Fellowship helped transform Edprende from an idea to a working platform. Hernandez said the funding provided by Voqal allowed him to create a proof of concept that he could provide to organizations that work with college-bound students, while the mentorship he received through the fellowship helped in Edprende’s development.

“I was linked with individuals who challenged me to view the initial concept from a different perspective,” he said.

In order to expand Edprende and increase its reach, Hernandez provided the completed platform to the Pilsen Neighbors Neighborhood Council, a nonprofit organization based in Chicago. The organization has used the existing content with Spanish-speaking parents and is working now to curate more resources to assist students and their parents.

Learn more about the Voqal Fellowship or apply now.

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