Our Scholars

Our Programs

LUCA supports Scholars from college exploration to college completion by providing guidance and access to opportunity through education, advocacy, and collaboration. The organization is committed to advancing educational equity by enhancing the quality and intensity of support that low-income, Latino students receive. Programs are designed and implemented to ensure first generation, low-income students get “to and through” college successfully.

College Access

The Latino U Scholars program provides intensive, one-on-one mentoring to students from the end of junior year through senior year of high school. Highly trained volunteer College Coaches assist Scholars with building balanced college lists, completing applications on time, applying for and reviewing financial aid packages, and selecting the best-fit college or university based on academic interests and affordability.

College Success & Career Readiness

The First Gen Forward (FGF) program provides comprehensive support to Latino U Scholars once they enroll in college to ensure they remain in school, graduate on time, and are prepared to enter their careers with the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the workplace.

Financial Aid Support

Through school-wide FAFSA Boot Camps and smaller, individualized workshops, trained volunteers assist families with completing and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), NYS TAP, and CSS profiles to maximize financial aid resources. Volunteers also help Scholars decipher the award letters from institutions where they have been accepted, so that their families can make an informed financial decision when deciding which college is the best fit.

Community Information Sessions

Culturally-relevant, Spanish language presentations on topics including Pathways to College, Applying to College, and Paying for College that are hosted at our partner school districts and open to the entire school community – not just those who are enrolled in our programs.


The Latino U Scholars program was recognized as a 2019 Example of Excelencia Finalist by Excelencia in Education. Examples of Excelencia is the only national effort to recognize programs that use evidence-based practices to accelerate Latino student success in higher education. Excelencia in Education, a national nonprofit organization in Washington, DC, aims to accelerate Latino student success in higher education.

Our Founder & CEO, Shirley Acevedo Buontempo, was recognized in Washington, D.C., as one of five 2019 AARP Purpose Prize winners. The AARP Purpose Prize honors extraordinary individuals over 50 who tap into the power of life experience to build a better future for us all. “AARP Purpose Prize winners and nominees are role models. They are makers and doers who are out there creating new solutions that make the world a better place for people of all ages.”-AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins

"We at the College Board depend upon collaborations with our dedicated partners on the ground to help us make college dreams a reality for every student who has earned the opportunity.  For low-income, first-generation Latino youth, few organizations have met the challenge with such staggering success as Latino U College Access — no wonder with Shirley Acevedo Buontempo at the helm.  A community hero and educational visionary, Shirley represents the very best in the field." —Angela Maria Garcia, Executive Director,  College Planning, The College Board

“Efforts like Latino U College Access that help Hispanic students complete the FAFSA and access college, greatly contribute to those students achieving their full educational potential, securing their families’ future, and strengthening the American economy.” —Marco Davis, Deputy Director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

Scholarships and Financial Aid

Scholarships and financial aid can help first-generation Latino youth manage costs and pay for college. There are many available for Latino youth.

Financial Information

There are three primary sources of financial aid available to parents and students, but first, you must apply.

  • Federal Aid – Complete the FAFSA application in October of your senior year and every year you are in college:
  • State Aid – Complete the NY State TAP application if you are a New York resident and are applying to schools in NY.
  • Institutional Aid from the College or University – Some colleges require that you complete an additional CSS Profile application to qualify for financial aid. Check to see if the college you are applying to is one of them here. You can begin your CSS Profile application here.
  • Resources for DACA / Undocumented Students – As a DACA or undocumented student, you have opportunities available to you. Visit the resources on The Dream US for a list of links, toolkits, guides, references, and other information that can help you complete college.