Founded in 1977, Instituto del Progreso Latino is a nationally recognized education hub serving over 8,000 participants from across Cook County, Illinois, with a focus on low-income communities on the Southwest Side of Chicago. Instituto offers adult basic education, English Language Acquisition (ELA) classes, workforce development, career pathway programs, employment support, youth education, and wrap-around social services.
Instituto has long recognized the integral connection between strong communities, economic stability and healthy lives, and has made access to the healthcare workforce a core element of its strategy for equity and advancement of the predominantly Latinx, immigrant, low-income people of color it serves. Since 2005, Instituto’s Carreras en Salud (Careers in Health, abbreviated as Carreras) bridge pathway program has prepared hundreds of students to achieve English proficiency to be eligible for certain healthcare professions. Building on the success of Carreras and responding to alumni who wanted to continue their training and attain credentials as Certified Nursing Assistants, Instituto launched its first in-house Basic Nursing Assistant Training Program (BNATP) in 2016. Since then, Instituto has trained 12 cohorts of BNATP students, with total enrollments of 321 students. 80 percent of the students who have enrolled in the BNATP program are students who have advanced from any of the Career Pathways classes. In 2019, our students were noted to attain an 88.2% first-time pass rate on the CNA Competency Exam.
With increasing numbers and a critical mass of Carreras and BNATP graduates lobbying for Instituto to provide a degree program for students to continue their training in-house and pursue their dreams to become Registered Nurses, Instituto applied to the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) to start Instituto College. In 2015, IBHE authorized the operating authority of Instituto College. In 2016, IBHE granted Instituto College authorization to grant the Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Nursing.
Given the trust and confidence that our past graduates have placed in us, viewing Instituto as their “educational home,” and with support from key foundations, Instituto leaders felt compelled to launch the Associate Degree in Nursing Program (ADN). We formally opened the doors for the first pilot cohort in January 2019. This January 2022, we admitted our fourth cohort, and have successfully graduated two classes.
Instituto College prioritizes the recruitment and retention of non-traditional, first-generation college students representing historically underrepresented immigrant communities. As a result, based on our survey of past graduates and current students, today 100% of Instituto College students identify as members of racial and ethnic minority groups. Specifically, 88% of students identify as Latinx and female. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of our students are single parents and 75% meet the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) eligibility guidelines.
EVERY PERSON – Our education pathways are built so that all people, regardless of skill level, can access them. We reach individuals who are eager to learn, single mothers who wish to launch fulfilling careers, and young people who have been pushed- or dropped-out of high school. We provide comprehensive pathways for individuals with incredible potential, but who are often underserved by traditional education systems.
EVERY FAMILY – We stand true to our motto: Register the student, enroll the family. We know that engaging the entire family is central to lasting success. To this end, we offer integrated services for our families such as on-site child care while parents are in class, financial counseling so families can achieve stability, and transitional support for both college bound students and their parents. We enable entire families to address their needs while supporting and celebrating one another.
EVERY COMMUNITY – Our work is paving the way for successful strategies around the country. We are partnering with other organizations like our own to offer expertise and help them develop pathways for their communities. We join state and national policy makers to create broader system changes that impact our families. We are a nationally recognized organization and we regularly open our doors so others can learn from our programs and approach.